Lara Prendergast Lara Prendergast

The Chloe Ayling story masks slavery’s sad truth

We’d rather hear about the Dark Web and babe-munching tigers than the real facts about trafficking

Do you believe Chloe Ayling? She is the 20-year-old glamour model whose dramatic story has been all over the newspapers throughout August. She claims to have been lured to a fake photoshoot in Italy, injected with ketamine, stuffed inside a suitcase and shoved into the boot of a car.

So far, so just about credible. But the story becomes ever more bizarre. Ayling says she was then driven to a farmhouse, where she was threatened with being sold via an online auction as a sex slave to a man in the Middle East, who – we must assume – has a taste for busty blonde British babes. Not only was he willing to stump up £273,000; he was also prepared to ‘feed her to tigers when he became bored’.

In a thrilling twist, Ayling then apparently managed to charm her captor. Despite the £39,000 ransom fee not being paid, he decided to set her free. He drove to the British Consulate in Milan, promptly handed her over, and was arrested. Somewhere along the way, the pair reportedly even managed to find time to go shoe-shopping. It’s unclear, though, whether she was still zipped inside the suitcase at this point.

It’s a sizzling summer story that seems destined to keep running. Lots of people think it must be a publicity stunt, which has in turn caused a backlash from Ayling’s defenders. The Mail on Sunday and an alliance of feminists are standing up for her. The paper has reportedly paid thousands for the rights to her tale, because the public also has a penchant for busty blonde babes.

The cast of side characters is intriguing, too. There’s Ayling’s ‘close friend’ Carla Bellucci, who was on TV soon after the story broke. She revealed Ayling had responded to the trauma with a Page 3 photo shoot ‘as her way of coping’.

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