Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Drugs smuggler Michaella McCollum Connolly may escape Peru prison squalor to serve sentence in UK

Jail hopes: Peru drugs smuggler Michaella McCollum Connolly
Jail hopes: Peru drugs smuggler Michaella McCollum Connolly

Hopes have been raised that drugs smuggler Michaella McCollum Connolly could be moved to a prison in Northern Ireland after her co-accused took a step towards coming back to the UK.

The Peru Two could be separated after Scottish authorities confirmed they are considering a request from cocaine smuggler Melissa Reid to spend the rest of her prison term in her native Scotland. While McCollum Connolly, her friend and smuggling partner, has not yet applied to be transferred from Lima, Reid's success so far has raised hopes the Dungannon woman could follow.

In January the 20-year-old Dungannon native told our sister paper, Sunday Life, she was finding prison life in South America difficult, after both she and Reid were sentenced in Lima to six years and eight months for being caught with 11kg of cocaine in their luggage.

"I would rather spend 90 years in prison back home than spend another day here," she said. "At least you could have a TV and proper food." McCollum Connolly does not speak Spanish so losing her friend will increase her isolation. The women have previously spoken of how difficult they would find prison life without each other.

It is understood Reid, from Lenzie near Glasgow, submitted a request to serve the rest of her jail term in Scotland after her family paid a €4,200 (£3,470) civil fine.

But it's believed that no fine has been paid or application made on behalf of McCollum Connolly so far.

On the possibility of repatriation, McCollum Connolly previously said: "I hope it does work in our favour and we can get home as soon as possible. But anything could happen in this country." In the past the former dancer and model, who was travelling on an Irish passport, indicated she would rely on the UK rather then the Irish authorities to liaise with the Peruvian authorities, as is her right as an individual from Northern Ireland.

At the weekend Michaella's family declined to comment on whether she would request a transfer home and yesterday a legal representative for her could not be contacted for a response.

Last night a spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service confirmed that an application is currently under consideration.

Reid's father said he met cotland's justice secretary Kenny MacAskill and is hopeful his daughter will serve the rest of her sentence closer to home.

It is understood that in most cases transfer applications are approved.

STORY SO FAR

In December 2013 Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid, both 20, were found guilty of trying to smuggle 11kg of cocaine from Peru to Madrid in Spain after being caught red-handed. The pair had previously claimed that they were forced to travel to Peru to bring back drugs to Europe by Colombian gangsters who threatened them and their families if they failed to obey orders to smuggle the drugs.

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