Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Michaella appeal fund set up by family to cover legal bills

Michaella McCollum Connolly, from Dungannon, arriving at the court in Peru
Michaella McCollum Connolly, from Dungannon, arriving at the court in Peru
Michaella McCollum, left, and Melissa Reid listen to a translator during their hearing at court in Callao, Peru (AP)
Michaella McCollum, left, and Melissa Reid listen to a translator during their hearing at court in Callao, Peru (AP)
Police escort Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum to a court to be formally charged for drug trafficking in Lima, Peru (AP)
Police escort Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum to a court to be formally charged for drug trafficking in Lima, Peru (AP)

An appeal fund has been set up for the public to donate towards the defence costs of suspected drugs mule Michaella McCollum Connolly.

The solicitors' firm acting for the 20-year-old has opened a bank account for people to make contributions.

McCollum Connolly faces up to 15 years in prison after being charged with trying to smuggle cocaine out of Peru.

Earlier this week she and co-accused Melissa Reid were formally charged with the promotion of drug trafficking.

The pair were refused bail and could spend up to three years in prison awaiting trial.

McCollum Connolly's family, from Dungannon, could face bills of tens of thousands of pounds for her legal fees as well as the cost of visits to Peru.

Yesterday, Madden & Finucane Solicitors, which is representing her, said relatives were preparing to visit her in prison.

The firm said it had set up a support fund for the family.

"Due to the requests received from the public to make donations to assist Michaella McCollum and her family in their campaign to clear her name, Madden & Finucane solicitors have set up a bank account on their behalf," the company said in a statement.

It said her solicitor Peter Madden was "currently dealing with urgent matters pertaining to Michaella's situation in Peru and making arrangements for family visits".

Her father, Robert, a former Irish Army soldier, has previously said he hoped to raise money for his daughter's defence with a new business.

"It's a new venture, but it's not an easy time to do anything with all this going on," he said.

"At the same time, it'll take loads of money to fund this situation so I'm going to have to get this going and try and earn some money to put into funding my daughter's case."

Both women were formally charged during a court appearance on Wednesday.

They were denied bail and have been taken to the notoriously tough Virgen de Fatima prison, which is said to be overcrowded and rife with disease.

Peruvian police said they found around 11kg of cocaine hidden inside food packages as the women attempted to board a flight from Lima to Madrid. The pair claim they were forced to carry the drugs – concealed in food packages – by an armed gang who threatened their family members.

The prosecutor told this week's court hearing that their story was "incoherent".

During the hearing they were informed that it could take as long as three years for their trial to get under way should they plead not guilty.

Mr Madden has maintained that his client will plead not guilty and described the conditions she is being held in as "unacceptable".

BACKGROUND

Dungannon woman Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid, from Glasgow, were arrested by drug enforcement officers at Lima airport on August 6 – just days after Michaella had been reported missing by her family. Peruvian police said they found more than 11kg of cocaine, thought to be worth around £1.5m, hidden in their luggage. Officers said the pair had been planning to fly on from Madrid to Palma in Mallorca.

Nightlife Galleries

More

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz