Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Peru drug arrests: Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum 'had a good offer'

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)

A former boyfriend of Melissa Reid, one of two British women accused of smuggling cocaine in Peru, has said the pair were not coerced and had planned to do it themselves.

Shane Knowles, 37, described by the Daily Mail as "a heavily tattooed convicted fraudster", dated Reid over the summer while she was in Ibiza. Reid, from Lenzie in Scotland and McCollum Connolly, from Dungannon in Northern Ireland, were caught in Lima trying to fly to Spain with £1.5m worth of cocaine stashed in food packages in their luggage.

 

The women say they were forced to carry the drugs by a gang of drug dealers who threatened to harm their families if they refused. But Knowles said this was unlikely and the pair would have had plenty of chances to back out.

 

"I told them not to get involved," he said. "They were girls who hung around people with money in villas. And then somebody made them a good offer and they went and did it.

 

"Everyone is out there with no money, trying to make money and they obviously got an incentive to do it."

 

Michaella McCollum Connolly, second right, and Melissa Reid, far right, after their arrest for drugs smuggling in Peru Michaella McCollum Connolly, second right, and Melissa Reid, far right, after their arrest for drugs smuggling in Peru

Knowles admitted that he did not know McCollum Connolly in person, but knew her circle of friends. The bodybuilder, who lost his left eye in 1999 when he was attacked in a gang-related fight, continued:

 

"They made a choice. There were plenty of chances they had to stop and walk away.

 

"They are going to have a hard time, aren’t they? Tough on them. All of these girls are just money hungry.

 

"[Melissa knew] another girl who did something naughty. The girl went and brought stuff back from Marbella.  It gave Melissa the confidence to do this."

 

The women are being held in the Virgen de Fatima prison in Lima. It may take three years before their case comes to trial.

 

It has emerged that Reid's father, William, wants the pair to plead guilty in order to get a shorter sentence. If they do so, they are expected to get about six years, or more than double that if they do not and are subsequently found guilty.

 

Reid, 53, said: "They were found to have drugs on them. They collected packages which transpired to be drugs. They are going to be guilty of that.

 

"If that’s the Peruvian law, regardless of the mitigating circumstances, then you are as well pleading guilty rather than defending that to the nth degree and be sitting there with 15 years that you’re trying to appeal and reduce.

 

"These girls are young. They may be living in cloud cuckoo land and thinking that magically next week they’re going to go free."

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