Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Michaella McCollum Connolly’s father tells of Peru drugs bust ‘nightmare that won’t end’

Michaella McCollum Connolly (left) and friend Melissa Reid in the airport after they were arrested
Michaella McCollum Connolly (left) and friend Melissa Reid in the airport after they were arrested
Michaella McCollum Connolly with reality TV star Mark Wright at a promotional night hosted by Belfast's M Club
Michaella McCollum Connolly in one of her club hostess outfits
Michaella McCollum Connolly with rugby star Tommy Bowe while doing promotional work at an official Ulster Rugby event

The father of suspected drug-smuggler Michaella McCollum Connolly believes she is innocent, but her arrest in Peru has been a “nightmare” that's “not going to end”.

Former Irish Army soldier Robert McCollum spoke as his 20-year-old daughter remains in jail in the Peruvian capital, Lima, along with Scottish woman Melissa Reid (19).

Ms McCollum Connolly, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, had been working as a nightclub hostess in Ibiza before she disappeared some weeks ago and turned up in jail in Peru. The two young women were arrested at Lima Airport on suspicion of trying to smuggle £1.5m worth of cocaine out of the country.

Belfast-based solicitor Peter Madden will arrive in Lima today, along with one of Ms Connolly's brothers, to help organise her defence with a local lawyer.

Both women are protesting their innocence and maintain they were forced into carrying luggage containing the drugs by a violent Colombian cartel.

Last night, Mr McCollum said he believes his daughter is innocent, saying she was in the “wrong place at the wrong time”.

Mr McCollum, originally from Co Monaghan, said he did not want to discuss the circumstances of her arrest, adding: “I'm not going to speculate on any of that because this is a very sensitive subject and I'm not going to jeopardise my daughter's welfare. Her solicitor's gone over and that's it.”

Mr McCollum said he hoped to raise money for his daughter's defence with a new business he is setting up.

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

“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.”

Meanwhile, Ms Reid (left) had an emotional reunion with her father William Reid, who has visited her at the police holding centre yesterday — the first time he had seen his daughter in seven weeks.

The distraught father stroked his daughter’s hair and hugged her, although her handcuffs meant Ms Reid could not return the gesture, the Daily Mail reported.

The two women are scheduled to appear before a judge today. The hearing will take place in the same anti-drugs unit the two women have been held in for the past eight days in Lima.

background

It’s been over a week since Dungannon woman, Michaella McCollum Connolly was charged in Peru for her alleged involvement in smuggling cocaine with a street value of £1.5m. Reported missing from Ibiza by her family via Facebook, the photography student was at the centre of a massive social media appeal for information for her whereabouts.

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