Belfast Telegraph

Peru Two: Security tightened at prison that will hold Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid after suicide

BY GERARD COUZENS

Security at the prison where the Peru Two will serve their time for drugs trafficking has been tightened after the suicide of a prisoner.

Guards were ordered to keep close watch on Peru's foreign women inmates such as Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid after a Spanish woman hanged herself with a scarf.

The two women were told of the death by fellow inmates at Lima's Virgen de Fatima prison, where they have started their six-year, eight-month sentences after being convicted of trying to smuggle £1.5m worth of cocaine out of Peru.

The dead woman was named as Tania Rodriguez.

Local media said she was suffering depression after her battle to get a 26-year jail sentence for drugs trafficking reduced was rejected.

She was found dead on Tuesday in her cell at Santa Monica women's prison in the Lima district of Chorillos.

Michaella, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and Melissa, from Lenzie near Glasgow, are to transfer to the prison to serve their sentences.

However, they are still thought to be at Virgen de Fatima prison, a 10-minute drive away in the same neighbourhood.

They are expected to apply for a transfer to the UK shortly so they can serve part of their sentence near their families.

The two women pleaded guilty last month – after weeks protesting their innocence – following their arrests last August at Lima's Jorge Chavez Airport with more than five kilos of cocaine each in their suitcases.

They still insist they were coerced into flying to South America to collect the drugs by an armed gang that kidnapped them in Ibiza, where they were working over the summer.

A Peru prison service source said: "A closer watch will be kept on all prisoners over the next few days following the Spanish woman's death.

"We know this sort of incident hits other prisoners hard, especially foreign prisoners who are thousands of miles from their homes."

The vast majority of foreign women in Peruvian prison are convicted drug traffickers.

Michaella and Melissa were warned after being sentenced that they may not be eligible for a sentence reduction, meaning they could be forced to serve the full term.

Michaella's mother Norah, a mother-of-10, recently spoke of her feelings after her youngest child was sentenced.

The Tyrone woman described her daughter as an "honest, hard-working girl" and said she was "optimistic" after hearing the length of sentence.

"Michaella rings me every day, sometimes twice a day. She tells me what's happened during the day and I tell her what's been happening at home," she said.

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"A closer watch will be kept on all prisoners over the next few days following the Spanish woman's death. We know this sort of incident hits other prisoners hard, especially foreign prisoners who are thousands of miles from their homes."

A Peru prison source

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