Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Peru 'drug mules' Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid may face 15 years as plea deal falters

Michaella McCollum Connolly is due to hear her verdict at a closed court session in Lima
Michaella McCollum Connolly is due to hear her verdict at a closed court session in Lima

Hopes of more lenient sentences are fading fast for the Peru 'drug mules' pair as they face potential jail terms of 15 years.

Dungannon woman Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid from Glasgow had agreed to plead guilty to smuggling £1.5m of cocaine with the prospect of reduced sentencing to six years and eight months.

The verdicts are due to be handed down in a closed court in Peruvian capital Lima on Tuesday.

According to reports yesterday, lawyers for the 20-year-olds have yet to secure a plea bargain, meaning any chance of being home by Christmas look bleak.

Melissa is said to have handed a diary to a newspaper in which she claims she and Michaella were kept in the back of a prison van in intolerable heat for a day without food, water or access to a toilet.

Melissa's diary records: "I have prepared myself for the worst... I think of how I will be in 15 years... and yes it does still scare me.

"I would really like to have this over with by Christmas because the fear of the unknown makes me more anxious. I've been waiting four months already and the delays and changes are annoying.

"'All this time the idea was I would be sentenced to six years eight months but then serve a third of that if I worked or studied [in prison] – so roughly two years three months – but now I will have to serve the full sentence."

The diary also reveals Melissa is afraid she will be separated from Michaella.

The pair have shared a cell in the Virgin de Fatima prison since their arrest, but Melissa also fears being transferred after sentencing to the Ancon 2 prison which is miles from Lima and would make it harder for her family to see her.

"I am consistently aware of my immediate transfer to Ancon after my sentence and would much rather stay in [Virgen de] Fatima for the Christmas period because of the fear of the unknown in Ancon," the diary added.

A spokesman for the Callao prosecutors' office said at the time: "The two drug mules' guilty pleas have not been fully accepted, as far as the prosecutor is concerned, until they give more details.

"They will be asked to give another statement before the judge explaining where the drugs came from, who supplied them and why they said they had been forced to carry them by an armed gang."

BACKGROUND

Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid – both 20 – were stopped at Lima airport in August on their way to Spain carrying £1.5m worth of cocaine concealed inside food packets.

They reportedly told authorities they were working in Ibiza before they were kidnapped and forced to travel to Majorca, then sent to Peru and forced to carry drugs in their luggage.

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