Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Peru 'drug mule' duo refused bail

Melissa Reid, front, and Michaella McCollum, are escorted to a court to be formally charged for drug trafficking in Lima, Peru (AP)

Two women arrested on suspicion of trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5 million out of Peru have been refused bail and could spend up to three years in prison awaiting trial, it has emerged.

Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid, both 20, face a maximum prison sentence of 15 years if convicted, a Peruvian prosecutor's office in Callao, near Lima, has said.

Tonight, during a public court appearance, the pair were formally charged with the promotion of drug trafficking.

McCollum , from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, in Northern Ireland, and Reid, from Glasgow, claim they were forced to carry the drugs - concealed in food packages - by an armed gang who threatened their family members.

But during the hearing, judge Dilo Huaman asked why they did not ask for help when they arrived at Lima airport, to which they replied they were threatened by someone anonymous, according to Sky News.

The prosecutor told the court that their story was "incoherent", the broadcaster added after the t he pair were led into court in handcuffs.

They have already spent two weeks in custody over the drug trafficking allegations and have suffered from a lack of food and a decent bed, according to M cCollum's lawyer Peter Madden.

He added the pair were effectively beginning a prison sentence, as they were led away for an unknown amount of time for their trial, which could be anything from a matter of months to up to three years away.

Mr Madden said: "Their main concern at the minute is that they may be separated, sent to different prisons.

"They are very concerned that might happen. They did not know each other before this started, they have now become best friends."

Peruvian police said they found around 24lb of cocaine hidden inside food packages as the women attempted to board a flight from Lima to Madrid.

During the hearing they were informed it could take three years for their trial to get under way should they plead not guilty.

Mr Madden has maintained his client will plead not guilty and described the conditions she is being held in as "unacceptable".

The pair were pictured yesterday in handcuffs being escorted by officers from the National Police anti-drug headquarters for medical examinations.

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