Belfast Telegraph

UK jail transfer of Peru drug mule Michaella McCollum Connolly 'could take years'

By Linda Stewart

New details of the tough conditions faced by drugs mule Michaella McCollum Connolly have been released as it emerged that a transfer to a UK prison could take "months, if not years".

On the eve of her 21st birthday, her cellmate Melissa Reid issued a stark warning to gap year youngsters on the perils of the drug-fuelled lifestyle she led on the holiday island of Ibiza.

A year after the pair were caught smuggling £1.5 million of cocaine out of Peru, she said: "Tell anyone that will listen – it's not smart, not big and definitely not clever."

The Mail on Sunday reported that Melissa insisted that if she ever goes back to Ibiza and is offered a line of cocaine, she would "blow it back in your face".

"I will also now be watching my back for years to come and double-checking the door is locked every night because, as everyone knows, drugs is a big boys' game," she said.

Reid then described tough conditions – including the lengths other drugs mules had gone to – to conceal cocaine. "Once you have seen a child being separated from her mother at three years old so her mother can serve a 15-year prison service, as I have, you have had more than enough," she said.

The pair are clinging to hopes that they will be transferred to a UK prison to serve out the rest of their six-year, eight-month sentences, hopes that were bolstered after it emerged that the Peruvian authorities had "accepted" Dungannon-born Michaella's prison transfer request.

However, they may be forced to endure conditions in their new prison at Ancon 2 for quite a while longer, according to a Peruvian Mministry of Justice source, who said the transfer requests were still in the early stages and may take months if not years.

The pair are sharing a cramped cell with six other prisoners. They are locked up from 6pm to 6am, spending their time reading. The toilet is a hole in the ground.

Reid's parents Debbie and Billy, who have travelled to Peru from their home in Lenzie near Glasgow, said this time last year they had hoped she would be home for her 21st. They took a chocolate cake into the prison to celebrate her birthday.

Her dad said: "We're making the best of a bad situation. The key to the door takes on a new meaning in her predicament."

Debbie added: "This time last year I thought maybe Melissa might be home for her 21st. Obviously not. I took in lots of cards from friends and family. We got her a sash and everyone joined in when we were singing happy birthday."

Melissa is the youngest foreigner in the jail, she said.

"She's not happy, but she's resigned to the fact that she's there and she's just got to get on with it day by day. She needs to be punished for what she did."

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