Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Mother of Peru coke smuggler Michaella McCollum unable so far to visit her in jail

Police escort Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid from the National Police anti-drug headquarters in Peru (AP)
Police escort Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid from the National Police anti-drug headquarters in Peru (AP)

The mother of drugs mule Michaella McCollum is facing Christmas having not seen her daughter for more than six months.

Dungannon grandmother Norah McCollum would love to see her youngest daughter, who is in jail in Peru awaiting sentencing on cocaine smuggling charges.

She has not seen Michaella since mid-June, when the 21-year-old model and student left to work as a dancer and bar staff in Ibiza for the summer.

It had been speculated that Michaella and co-accused Melissa Reid (21), from Glasgow, may have been sentenced and released by Christmas in return for a guilty plea.

However, on September 25 Peruvian prosecutors rejected the young women's guilty plea, requiring them to provide more information on the drugs gang behind the smuggling attempt.

This hope – recently expressed by Reid's mother Debbie – is now fading, as no new developments in the legal process have been released in the ongoing investigation.

Despite an appeal fund being set up to help fight Michaella's case, the family is struggling to finance legal fees, travel costs to Lima and living costs for her in the Virgen de Fatima prison.

Jail conditions have worsened for the two women, as they are now mixing with the general prison population after having been kept together separately for weeks before.

"Nothing is free over there, not even the air," said Mrs McCollum, who revealed that it costs the family £200-plus per month to provide basic essentials such as food, water, toiletries and telephone calls. "We have to provide everything for Michaella over there, even the water she drinks.

"She rings me every night and we chat, but if there's no money over there for her to give them, then there's no calls.

"I haven't been able to get out to see Michaella yet and I would love to.

"My other son Glenn and daughter Stephanie managed to see Michaella in October, so she has got two visits from home so far, as my son Keith went over with our solicitor."

When asked if McCollum and Reid – who are reported to have become close friends through their ordeal – were supportive of one another, all Mrs McCollum would say was: "Well, let's just say that's another story."

Mrs McCollum also revealed that Michaella recently became aunt to her third grandchild, a six-week-old baby girl her jailed daughter has not yet held.

She is very angry at how some sections of the media have portrayed Michaella.

"I have not spoken to the Press and I haven't read or seen any of the newspapers after seeing how the tabloids reported it.

"The pictures they used of her and what they wrote about her was disgusting, absolutely disgusting."

A Michaella McCollum appeal on Youcaring.com with a £10,000 target currently stands at £3,750, with a donator pledging £100 yesterday.

Michaella, who called herself McCollum Connolly on her Facebook page, had been living and working in Belfast as a part-time student, nightclub hostess and dancer before leaving for Ibiza to work there during the summer.

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