The chief suspect in the alleged kidnap of a British model in Milan has said he did not knowingly take part in any crime.
Lukasz Pawel Herba says his involvement stems from wanting to raise money to treat his leukaemia and that he was hired by a group of Romanians to rent properties around Europe to store garments they were selling, according to reports.
He is also said to have told investigators he posed as a photographer and met Chloe Ayling. He said he was paid £500,000, found out the Romanians intended to kidnap her, and backed out of the plan.
His side of the story has emerged as Ms Ayling’s representatives dismissed doubts about the ordeal, saying it was real and terrifying.
Italian police said she was snatched last month by a group calling itself Black Death.
She is believed to have been drugged and transported in a bag to an isolated village near Turin, where she was held for six days as her captors tried to auction her online.
As more details emerged about the episode, including that she went shopping for shoes and groceries with her captor, her lawyer and an agent have spoken out to defend her.
Lawyer Francesco Pesce said it is “evil” to suggest she was involved while Phil Green, of Supermodel Agency, said what took place was “real and very frightening for all concerned“.
Ms Ayling left her house in Coulsdon, south London, on Tuesday morning wearing black leggings and a gold-coloured jacket.
Pulling on a white helmet and black coat, she climbed on to the pillion seat of a motorbike before it set off in the direction of Purley.
Speaking previously, Ms Ayling said she had feared for her life “second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour” during the incident and thanked the Italian and UK authorities “for all they have done to secure my safe release”.
A friend of Ms Ayling’s said the young model said she was doing a Page Three photo shoot on Tuesday.
Carla Bellucci, who runs a modelling agency, told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme: “I wouldn’t say she’s the wisest of girls.
“She can be a little bit naive, she’s young. To us it’s new but for her she’s had a few weeks to get used to it.”
Ms Bellucci said the decision to pose so soon after the incident was “maybe… her way of dealing with what’s happened to her, to get back out there”.
Ms Ayling was informed she was going to be sold to somebody in…