The court in Milan sentenced UK resident Lucasz Herba to 16 years and nine months in prison for abducting Ayling and holding her against her will in July 2017.
“I am very happy with the outcome, I want to thank the Court and all those who believed in what I said, from the staff to the police investigators up to the prosecutor. Now I want to be with my family,” said Ayling speaking after the verdict, according to Italian agency AGI.
Ayling – who was 20 years old at the time – claimed to have been drugged and kidnapped after being lured to Milan on the false promise of attending a fashion shoot. She was taken to a remote mountain village where she was kept for almost a week before Herba drove her back to Milan and released her near the British consulate.
She claims she was told she had been kidnapped by an organised gang and would be auctioned off online as a sex slave.
Herba's defence said that Ayling had organised the kidnapping with the Pole as a publicity stunt to boost her professional career. During the hearing the accused said he had elaborated the scheme with the young mother because he was in love with her.
“It was evident that she needed help, because she was without money, I had become her friend and I was in love with her,” Herba said. “I did everything to help her, all the international scandal that resulted from it was only used to make her famous.”
'An incredible burden'
Ayling's lawyer Francesco Pesce said Ayling was considering taking legal action to claim damages from those who had “thrown mud” and tried to discredit her, referring to media speculation in certain British tabloids which questioned the model's version of events during the investigation.
Ayling's representative at Kruger Cowne agency Adrian Sington said the model could now “get on with her life”.
“This has been an incredible burden on her shoulders for the last year in the face of media criticism of her motivation and this is vindication – her story is true. Let's not forget she was bundled into a suitcase, injected with ketamine in the boot of a car and thought she was going to die,” Sington added.
Investigators, who described Herba as a “mythomaniac adventurer”, said that he had tried to extort money from Ayling, asking her manager and family for €300,000 before eventually releasing her.
Herba's brother Michal Herba was arrested in the UK in August 2017 in connection with the crime and faces extradition to Italy.
Prosecutor Paolo Storari said that Ayling's version of events was “more than founded by the evidence provided,” including a message from Lucasz to Michal in which he told his brother to “clean the boot of the car so that her hair would not be found”.
By Lucy Adler