Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Peru drug arrests: Michaella McCollum Connolly pleads guilty during trial in Lima

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
Police escort Michaella McCollum Connolly (right) and Melissa Reid (front) in handcuffs as they are moved from the National Police anti-drug headquarters to a court to be formally charged for drug trafficking in Lima, Peru, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013
Police escort Michaella McCollum Connolly (right) and Melissa Reid (front) in handcuffs as they are moved from the National Police anti-drug headquarters to a court to be formally charged for drug trafficking in Lima, Peru, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013

Michaella McCollum Connolly has pleaded guilty during her trial in Peru over trying to smuggle £1.5m worth of cocaine onto a flight to Spain.

Michaella (20), was conveyed to court in a prison van alongside her co-accused, Melissa Reild (20), from Glasgow, who also pleaded guilty to smuggling cocaine.

In video footage, Michaella is seen clutching a large bottle of water, while Melissa walks behind her carrying a bag.

Michaella's hair was tied in a top knot, wearing a dark biker jacket and leggings.

Both women kept their eyes to the ground as they were walked to the van by prison officers.

The pair are accused of attempting to smuggle £1.5m worth of cocaine from the Peruvian capital of Lima to Spain.

The two women were both charged with the illegal trafficking of just over 5kg of cocaine each last month and have been held in remand in the Virgen de Fatima Women's prison in the city.

It's understood the pair will plead guilty at this evening's court appearance, in the hope of the shorter sentence.

Both women have claimed they were kidnapped by a drugs gang and were threatened to carry the drugs, and both have admitted carrying the drugs in their luggage, but said they were coerced.

"I understand that the [judicial] process will be simpler if we both plead guilty," Michaella said.

"We are hoping that we will not have to wait too long before we are sentenced and pleading guilty will speed things up."

Michaella said they were both "nervous" about appearing in court and anxious to learn their fate.

"We have heard so many rumours about the possibility of early release or serving our sentence at home, that it is difficult to know what to believe."

"We are trying not to get our hopes up," she added.

A recent change to the law meant the two women were the first people accused of drug trafficking to have their initial hearing held in public court in Callao.

If the judge accepts their guilty plea as sincere and honest, their sentence could be considerably reduced.

First time offenders also have the possibility of conditional release, depending on the crime.

It is likely that Meyer Fishman – Ms McCollum and Ms Reid's lawyer – will then attempt to negotiate to have the women sent home to serve out their sentence.

A basis for his argument may be the cost to the state of maintaining two foreign nationals in the country's already overcrowded jails.

Mr Fishman said it was unlikely that the women would be sentenced today.

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