Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Father's vow over drug case woman

Belfast Solicitor Peter Madden is on his way to Peru, where he will represent Michaella McCollum Connolly
Belfast Solicitor Peter Madden is on his way to Peru, where he will represent Michaella McCollum Connolly

The father of one of two women held on suspicion of drug smuggling in Peru has vowed to bring his daughter home.

William Reid flew to the capital Lima to support Melissa, who turns 20 today, and told her during an emotional reunion to "be strong".

Ms Reid, from Scotland, and Michaella McCollum Connolly, 20, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone in Northern Ireland, are suspected by detectives of trying to leave the country with £1.5 million of cocaine in their luggage.

They were detained while trying to board a flight from the Peruvian capital to Spain last week.

The pair both deny the accusations, and say they are victims of a violent gang who coerced them into carrying the drugs.

Lawyer Peter Madden, who is representing Ms McCollum Connolly, is expected to arrive in Peru today.

As he left Belfast for Lima he said that Ms McCollum Connolly would deny any allegations if charged, but warned that legal proceedings could be lengthy.

He said: "She is saying she has done nothing wrong, that she is innocent and that as far as any offences are concerned, if she is charged she will be denying it."

Mr Reid was able to visit his daughter at the Dirandro police station in Lima for 15 minutes on Wednesday night, the Daily Mail said, and for longer last night.

During their meeting, Ms Reid told her father: "They made me do it." She told him that while she worked on the Mediterranean party island of Ibiza she was introduced to a British man who eventually forced her into meeting a gang of Colombian gangsters, who put a gun to her head.

She told her father of how the gang forced her to fly to Peru, saying: "I wanted to tell the air hostesses or anyone in the airports, but the men said they would know if we had spoken to anyone, that they were watching all the time.

"It was a choice between doing what I was told and getting it over and done with and hopefully getting back to Spain or trying to escape and being killed."

Ms Reid said that she fears evidence in Peru has been contaminated by police because they did not wear gloves as they handled the food bags in which the drugs are said to have been stored, the Mail said.

When Ms Reid was told to return to her cell, her father told her: "We will do everything we can to get you out of here. We will work something out."

Police are waiting for a translator before officially questioning the two women, which is expected to happen in the next few days.

They may be held pre-charge for up to 30 days and could then spend up to three years in prison before a trial.

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