British model kidnapped in Italy and put up for auction on internet

A British model was kidnapped and held captive in Italy for six days, police have said, by a man who reportedly meant to auction her on the dark web.

Italian police said they are working with officials in Britain and Poland as they continue to investigate.

The woman was kept handcuffed to furniture but was freed after six days and taken to the British consulate in Milan, despite the ransom not being paid.

She was loaded into the trunk of a vehicle and taken to a cabin on the outskirts of Lemie, a remote town in the Italian Alps, she told authorities.

The woman, who has not been named, was allegedly kidnapped by two men on 11 July as she turned up for a fake photo shoot.

Her captors seemed to have a change of heart when they found out the model had a two-year-old child, and told police their "rules exclude kidnapping mothers" and chose to try and release her, the local paper reported.

Police say they are still unclear whether the kidnappers were running an online scam to con "buyers" out of money or whether they actually meant to sell her on.

Lukasz Pawel Herba, who has British residency, was picked up by Milan police on July 18, a day after the model was released and dropped off at the British consulate in the city.

The woman, 20, whose identity has not been revealed, was held prisoner for a week after being drugged with ketamine, authorities said.

Police said no one took part in auction and it was unclear if Herba was serious about the plan or whether he was a "fantasist".

His phone, computer and photos of the model have been seized.

Police found a small bedroom at the property, but it is unclear whether it was used by the model or the kidnapper.

The woman's modelling agency then contacted police and Herba reportedly negotiated a ransom for about USD$60,000 ($75,000) with them.

The Foreign Office confirmed it was providing assistance to the woman in Italy and is also cooperating with local authorities.

  • Jack Mann