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Peru strike dashes drug mule Michaella McCollum's hopes of Christmas return

By Rebecca Black

Published 14/12/2015

Michaella McCollum Connolly in one of the Ibiza clubs where she worked as a dancer
Michaella McCollum Connolly in one of the Ibiza clubs where she worked as a dancer
Michaella McCollum Connolly in one of her club hostess outfits
Michaella McCollum Connolly with Brad Houston from England, pictured in Ibiza
Michaella McCollum Connolly
Michaella McCollum Connolly
First television interview of Michaella McCollum Connolly after being released on parole from a Peruvian prison
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, clutching the book 'Secrets About Life Every Woman Should Know: Ten principles for spiritual and emotional fulfillment' (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)
Michaella McCollum Connolly arrives to court for her sentencing in Callao, Peru (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum, both handcuffed, arrive 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)
Michaella McCollum, left, and Melissa Reid listen to a translator during their hearing at court in Callao, Peru (AP)
Police escort Melissa Reid, front, and Michaella McCollum to a hearing in Lima, Peru (AP)
Police escort Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid from the National Police anti-drug headquarters in Peru (AP)
Michaella McCollum Connolly (left) and friend Melissa Reid in the airport after they were arrested
Michaella McCollum Connolly with rugby star Tommy Bowe while doing promotional work at an official Ulster Rugby event
Santa Monica female prison in Peru
SECRET STASH: The drugs found in food packs in the girls’ luggage
CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Michaella and Melissa caught on CCTV loading bags into a car in Peru
Michaella McCollum, centre, and Melissa Reid leave the court after being sentenced in Peru.
Lawyer Peter Madden, who represents Michaella McCollum, has claimed his client has suffered from a lack of food.
Belfast solicitor Peter Madden said Michaella McCollum and co-accused Melissa Reid have been well treated by the authorities
Michaella McCollum, right, and Melissa Reid, left, were jailed in Peru last year after they admitted trying to smuggle cocaine worth 1.5 million pounds from Peru to Spain (AP)
Michaella McCollum's mother Norah McCollum and sister Samantha McCollum vist the Peru prison
Michaella McCollum Connolly with reality TV star Mark Wright at a promotional night hosted by Belfast's M Club

Drug mule Michaella McCollum Connolly's hopes of getting home for Christmas have been dashed due to industrial action in the Peru courts.

Co Tyrone woman Michaella (23) has been serving time in a prison in Lima after being caught attempting to smuggle cocaine.

The Dungannon woman and fellow drugs mule Melissa Reid from Glasgow were reportedly told they could return to the UK imminently under new expulsion rules to clear crowded prisons.

Foreign inmates in Peru can apply for early release after serving a third of their term.

But the Sunday People reported yesterday that the pair must now wait months to hear when they can leave the notorious Ancon 2 prison in the desert north of Lima.

The delay reportedly comes after Peru's entire justice system ground to a halt last month when staff went on strike over pay.

Lima-based priest Sean Walsh said the women may now have to wait until at least February to get a transfer home.

"The strike could last two months - and with the usual month-long January holiday, they'll have to wait until at least February," he told the newspaper.

Michaella and Melissa were each jailed for six years and eight months in 2013.

They were caught with £1.5m worth of cocaine - hidden inside food packages in their luggage - on a flight from Lima to Madrid in 2011. Both initially claimed they were forced into the crime by drug cartel gunmen who threatened their families, but later pleaded guilty and received a reduced sentence. They completed a third of their terms last month and won permission to serve the remainder in the UK. Earlier this year it emerged that Michaella had become a beauty therapist in a bid to get early parole from her Peruvian jail cell.

In January her case was raised during a meeting of the Assembly.

Justice Minister David Ford then said they were awaiting agreement by the Peruvian authorities for repatriation.

"It is a matter of public record that an application has been made by Michaela McCollum which has been accepted within this jurisdiction but which has not yet been accepted in Peru," Mr Ford said at the time.

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