Belfast Telegraph

Michaella McCollum 'dreading' Christmas in Peruvian jail

By Adrian Rutherford

Drugs mule Michaella McCollum has said being separated from her family will be the worst part of spending Christmas locked up in a Peruvian jail thousands of miles from home.

The 20-year-old said she was dreading December 25 and expected to spend it eating a basic dinner of rice and beans before the prison lights were switched off at 9pm.

Michaella and her Scottish friend Melissa Reid were jailed for six years and eight months last week after being caught trying to smuggle £1.5m worth of cocaine out of Peru.

The women are being held at the Virgen de Fatima prison in the country's capital Lima, but are expected to be transferred to the notorious Santa Monica jail in the new year.

Michaella said this Christmas would be a massive change from the previous ones she celebrated with her family back in Dungannon.

"When I think back to what I was doing this time last year and now, it scares me," she said.

"I can't believe I am spending Christmas in prison.

"If I sat and thought about what time of year it is and the fact that I was sitting eating dinner with my family last year I would drive myself mental.

"What really upsets me the most is that I won't be seeing my mummy – I haven't seen her since June. I don't care about the presents or the dinner, it's that I won't see my brothers, sisters and mummy."

Michaella said prison Christmas dinner would be just like every other day – rice, runner beans and cooked chicken's feet.

"We won't be getting anything special in here, it will just be the normal rice and runner bean-type things, which I don't eat," she told Sunday Life.

"Sometimes they would serve chicken's feet here, cooked. I haven't tried it but it looks and tastes disgusting and there is sometimes hair on it. We try to tell them we only eat chicken breast, but that rarely gets served.

"I just eat the salad I get from here, which is just lettuce and red onion and costs about three sol (local currency), and make some of the noodles that my family have brought over.

"I still have loads of noodles from the last time they visited a few months ago. So that's what I will be eating."

Michaella said she expected to spend Christmas Day in the cell she shares with Reid and 60 other women.

"We will probably read. There is one TV in our piandra and we can't watch it because it is all in Spanish. I get through a book a day in here so that's probably what I will be doing," she added.

"It will be hard when I ring home on Christmas Day and hear everyone in our house there, but what else can I do?"

The ex-photography student expressed relief that her sentence wasn't a 15-year maximum term.

"Anything less than eight years means there's a good chance we can go home and finish our sentence," she said.

"I'd rather do 90 years in a prison back home than spend another day here."

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