Peru pair 'smuggled for their lives'

Peru pair 'smuggled for their lives'

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.

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

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