Peru pair 'smuggled for their lives'

Published Wednesday, 14 August 2013
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A Dungannon woman who is accused, along with a woman from Scotland, of attempting to smuggle £1.5m worth of cocaine out of Peru will not appear in court until next week.

Peru pair 'smuggled for their lives'
The girls said they carried the bags under threat of death from a drug gang. (© UTV)

The pair were expected to appear in court to receive initial charges on Wednesday, but it is now understood this has been moved back because they have not seen an interpreter.

Michaella McCollum Connolly, 20, and 19-year-old Melissa Reid from East Dunbartonshire, were arrested last week as they tried to board a flight from Peruvian capital to Spain. They are accused of having a combined 11kg of illegal drugs in their luggage.

Video footage released on Tuesday showed the women denying the drugs trafficking allegations.

They claim they carried the bags after they were threatened by a South American gang at gunpoint.

The pair said the incident began when they were targeted separately by a man with an English accent in Ibiza where they were both working.

Ms Reid insisted they were not smuggling for financial gain but to save their lives.

"We were given no option. If we didn't do as we were told we would be dead," she said in an interview with the Daily Mirror newspaper.

"We have no doubt they would have killed us both without hesitation if we didn't do as we were told."

We were not smuggling for money, we were smuggling for our lives.

Melissa Reid

The women told a Daily Mirror journalist that the gang took their passports and mobile phones and followed them on board flights from Spain to Peru.

She claims they were then ordered to carry the luggage, which contained cocaine hidden inside food packets.

Ms Reid said the two had never met before they were both kidnapped and taken to a drug boss's safe house in Majorca.

Ms McCollum Connolly had been working as a club hostess in Ibiza. She told the press they are being kept in "harsh" conditions as they await their court appearance.

The Daily Mirror's US editor Chris Bucktin is in Lima and interviewed the girls in their police holding cells.

"They admit that they have cried themselves several times," he said.

"They are in two separate cells, Melissa is sharing with another girl and Michaella is by herself. There is nothing in those cells, they actually sleep on fibreglass beds."

Former honorary Irish consul Michael Russell said the pair were in "much better spirits" than before and they were looking forward to seeing their families.

Peter Madden, of Madden & Finucane, representing the family of Ms McCollum-Connolly, said on Monday evening they are "obviously shocked and distressed" but are confident that Michaela will be exonerated.

"The family fully support her and they are making arrangements to travel to Peru," a statement said.

"They have contacted support groups in Lima to ensure that her current needs are met.

"I am arranging legal representation for her in Lima."

© UTV News
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44 Comments
joe greer in belfast falls road wrote (433 days ago):
all i can say is hope they get home safe no matter what they done bring home the belfast one also the scotland one joey greygo belfast so all you nosy ppl mind your own
Realist in England wrote (434 days ago):
If this headline is true, and it is certainly possible - why are they now grassing on whoever ordered them to do it? Surely the drug baron types who could order people to do that sort of thing would dislike people grassing on them even more than people who refuse to carry out their instructions. If the girls genuinely feared death (within the EU) when they got themselves involved in this situation, how would they feel should they be released? Pleading guilty and sitting it out in the relative safety of a Peruvian jail might actually get them a payout from a relieved drugs baron when they are finally released and, in terms of game theory, would have to be the preferred strategy for both of them. What they are saying sounds more like a banal attempt to deal with a "Whoops, I got caught, what should I do now?" scenario.
anne in belfast wrote (434 days ago):
I agree with Tom there are more important issues for the news. I hope, we, the tax payer are not going to be lumbered with the legal fees for these stupid girls
Peter in Belfast wrote (434 days ago):
Is it just me or do they not exactly look stressed or frightened or scared? I would have thought if I was forced at gunpoint to smuggle drugs I would be out of my wits and stressed to bits. They look a bit too comfortable for my liking. That image of them eating on the stairs and smiling. That doesn't look like a couple of forced drug smugglers to me.
tanya in belfast wrote (435 days ago):
miss connoly has been seen smiling and singing which shows that she is not taking the whole thing seriously for if i were her i would be very worried incase i ended up in prison and why the media portrayed this lady as being smart is beyond me as shes the one that has cost the taxpayer payer a fortune to get her out of there.
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