Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Peru drug arrests: Michaella McCollum 'scared and overwhelmed' as legal cost donations struggle

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

Dungannon woman Michaella McCollum is “scared and overwhelmed” by her experience in a Peruvian jail and while donations to help her legal costs have risen, they are just 10% of the original target.

Michaella, and Melissa Reid, from Scotland both aged 20, are both accused of attempting to take €1.7m worth of cocaine out of Peru.

A fundraising effort organised by Michaella’s sister, Stephanie has so far received donations totalling €2,587.

Eight days ago, the fund stood at just €600. However, it is still a long way short of the target of the original target of €23,500 (£20,000).

Stephanie has revealed how her sister's “mood is okay” but that she is “scared and overwhelmed” by the nightmare.

Conditions in the prison are not bad, though the food is “very bad” and at times inedible, Stephanie said.

The pair are being held at the assessment centre of the Virgen de Fatima prison in Lima– which houses murderers and high-profile terrorists – while they await trial.

They could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.

It emerged earlier this week the 20-year-old had received medical treatment after suffering from a reaction to bug bites in the jail.

Michaella and Melissa, who is from Lenzie near Glasgow, both needed injections to control swelling after suffering bad bites.

The pair were stopped at Lima's Jorge Chavez airport on August 6 with 11kg of cocaine hidden in food packets in their luggage while trying to board a flight to Spain last month.

If the pair plead not guilty and are convicted, they could face 15 years in jail. But with a guilty plea they may only serve three years' imprisonment.

The women are due to appear before a judge shortly to enter a plea.

However, their case may not be heard for up to two years.

Michaella moved to Ibiza in June for the summer and her worried family launched an internet campaign to find her after they had not heard from her for nearly two weeks.

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