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Michaella McCollum homecoming: 'She could have ruined lives... she should still be locked up'

By Cate McCurry

There was no sign of life at Michaella McCollum's old home when the Belfast Telegraph called to the door - but the balloons hanging in the house told their own story.

While the news that Dungannon's most infamous resident returned to her home town was a cause for celebration for some, others were less than impressed that a drug smuggler who served less than half her sentence was being given a hero's homecoming. Streams of people were said to have called to the property, where McCollum lived for part of her childhood and her teenage years.

Red and green balloons could be seen dotted throughout the kitchen for the celebrations after McCollum's three years in jail.

However, there was little evidence of the night before when the Belfast Telegraph called to her home yesterday.

The curtains were drawn in most of the rooms and no one answered our requests for an interview.

Only the barks of two small dogs could be heard from the apparently empty home.

Neighbours said they were not aware of her impending return until a number of cars started to arrive for the get-together.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said the celebrations continued on into the night.

"There was an unusual amount of cars parked outside the house," they said.

"While I didn't see Michaella, I saw a few of her family members. They definitely seemed to be having a party and I heard it was for her.

"I'm sure she will be welcomed back by her friends and family - but I'm not sure about everyone else.

"She did a bad thing and some think she got away lightly with it."

There was a mixed reaction in Dungannon yesterday as the news of her arrival home began to spread.

On a quiet Sunday afternoon in the town's square, few wanted to comment.

However one local resident, who did not want to be named, said he did not believe she served enough time in prison.

"She should have stayed in jail," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"She could have destroyed a lot of lives with what she did. But I'm sure people will welcome her home and have a party for her."

Another said: "People are in jail for a lot longer than her for doing a lot less. The support for her quickly disappeared after it came out what she had really did with the drugs."

It remains to be seen what the former dancer will do with her free time while at home or whether she will be allowed to work under the new terms of her parole.

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