Belfast Telegraph

Prison cell video gives glimpse of grim daily life for Peru Two

By Deborah McAleese

A grim insight into the life of drugs mule Michaella McCollum Connolly has emerged for the first time from within her new Peruvian jail.

Less than two weeks ago the Dungannon woman's hopes of being returned to the UK to serve the remainder of her seven-year jail term for drug smuggling were dashed after she was moved to Ancon, a prison set in a desolate desert landscape hours outside Lima.

Video footage made by fellow Scottish drug smuggler Melissa Reid from inside the prison cell they share is the first glimpse of the difficult conditions the pair – known as the Peru Two – face on a daily basis.

It has been almost 10 months since Michaella and Melissa were caught attempting to smuggle £1.5m of cocaine out of Peru.

Looking strained and tired in the footage Melissa says: "A year ago today I was having the time of my life and look where I am now, look at what I'm having to put up with, look at what I've put myself through.

"To anybody out there who ... just watch yourself, just be careful, just don't get yourself in a position like this."

Michaella and Melissa were arrested last August after staff at Lima International Airport discovered cocaine in their suitcases.

Before that they had been working on the party island of Ibiza.

They pleaded guilty to smuggling drugs and in December were sentenced to six years and eight months in prison.

Both women had requested to be transferred to the UK to serve the remainder of their sentences, but their recent transfer from the all-female Virgen de Fatima prison in central Lima to Ancon will have left them deeply anxious about their uncertain fate.

"I don't know how long right now it's going to take me to get home. I'm worried and I'm scared and I'm lonely and I've never been in this position and I don't know what to do," Melissa says to the camera. "I don't know how to improve how I'm feeling. I can't improve my living conditions so I just need to live for the day and obviously hope that this is going to improve at some point."

The emergence of the video footage will no doubt be distressful for Michaella's family who have been desperately seeking urgent meetings with Justice Minister David Ford in a bid to get her repatriation under way so she can serve the remainder of her sentence in Northern Ireland.

Background

Dungannon woman Michaella McCollum and her Scottish friend Melissa Reid were caught last August attempting to smuggle £1.5m of cocaine out of Peru and were jailed for six years and eight months. They are currently being held in Ancon, a prison set in desolate desert landscape hours outside the capital Lima.The facility holds 3000 prisoners, male and female. The female wing, Ancon 2, has a section that holds 188 foreign prisoners, most of whom are guilty of drug offences.

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