Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Why no tears will be shed over jailing of Peru drugs mules Michaella and Melissa

Michaella McCollum Connolly, handcuffed, arrives for a court hearing, in Lima, Peru (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)
Michaella McCollum Connolly, handcuffed, arrives for a court hearing, in Lima, Peru (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)

If it had all gone to plan, she would be lounging on a yacht by now, sipping champagne. Michaella McCollum Connolly wouldn't have handed the cash earned from her successful drug smuggling trip to Peru back. She would instead be enjoying it to fund her party lifestyle in Ibiza.

But it didn't all go to plan. And instead of living the high life in the Spanish sunshine, Michaella faces years being imprisoned after pleading guilty to cocaine smuggling.

News that the 20-year-old Dungannon woman admitted the charge came as no surprise.

Some might feel sorry for this young woman as she loses her future to what is reported as a squalid prison. But she doesn't deserve any sympathy.

She knew what she was doing when she tried to board that flight in Peru. Was she thinking about the devastating dangers of cocaine or the countless lives it has ruined? I doubt it.

Had she pulled it off, would the Northern Ireland woman have handed herself in to the authorities after landing safely back in Ibiza with her luggage packed with cocaine? I doubt that too.

Michaella is the youngest child from a normal, decent family in Dungannon who had been living and working in Belfast as either a nightclub hostess, model, dancer or promotions girl.

She's not a shy girl, as evidenced by photos that she has posted on Facebook.

They range from her in various skimpy dance costumes to a more recent picture posted that shows her more softer in the face than some of the harder Miss Whiplash poses.

But apart from her family and close friends, who do deserve sympathy, how many of us will shed tears over this young woman's predicament?

Not many, and certainly not by me. My concern is for the millions of people's lives utterly ruined from addiction to cocaine and other Class A drugs.

We don't have to look as far as Spain or Ibiza – where the £1.5m worth of drugs that she and co-accused Melissa Reid was carrying were destined for – to see the wretched aftermath of this drug.

The evidence against them was strong, even their supporters acknowledged that.

They were caught red-handed and red-faced with 15 packets of foodstuffs containing the coke as they tried to fly back to Madrid in August.

The fact that they packed the drugs into their own suitcases differs from what most drug mules do who are arrested nearly weekly at the country's main airport.

These two 20-year-olds claimed that they were recruited separately by a shady Cockney man while working and partying in Ibiza. He then introduced them to gun-toting Columbians who kidnapped them and forced them to travel to Peru to collect the drugs.

Many sources in Ibiza said that they had never heard of this happening on the island before.

Michaella came to the Belfast Telegraph's attention after we took up a Facebook appeal to find her that was launched by her worried family who had not heard from her for days.

Dramatically within three days of our coverage, the missing woman story – which had been shared across the world via social media – sparked a call from an airport employee who confirmed her arrest. Suddenly our missing, innocent young woman was not so innocent.

Both young women had earlier enjoyed the party-hard lifestyle in Ibzia. Michaella was pictured sipping wine on a yacht with a boyfriend who quickly departed the scene. Exactly where she worked on the island was never really clarified.

Her supporters will say that this change in plea, or accepting responsibility for your crime – which is how it's termed in the Peruvian legal system – is to ensure that Michaella will serve the least possible time in prison.

It's all about choices, you see.

Everyone in the whole sordid coke supply chain makes a choice when they get involved.

And so did Michaella McCollum Connolly when she got involved with something that will impact on her life and that of her family for a very long time.

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