Michaella 'denies Peru drug claims'
An Irish woman arrested on suspicion of drug-smuggling in Peru will plead not guilty if charged, her solicitor has declared.
As he left Belfast for Lima, lawyer Peter Madden confirmed that Michaella McCollum Connolly, 20, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, would deny any allegations but warned that legal proceedings could be lengthy. He said his client was doing well in police custody but it was a difficult position for a "young girl" to be in.
His client and Melissa Reid, 19, from Lenzie near Glasgow, are suspected by detectives of trying to leave the country with £1.5 million of cocaine in their luggage.
They were detained while trying to board a flight from the Peruvian capital to Spain last week.
Mr Madden said: "She is saying she has done nothing wrong, that she is innocent and that as far as any offences are concerned, if she is charged she will be denying it."
Mr Madden, a hugely experienced lawyer, is due to attend a preliminary court hearing in Lima but wants to arrange local legal representation while she is questioned by police and intends to stay there at least a week. He arrives on Friday.
The women claimed they are victims of a violent gang who coerced them into carrying the drugs, and said they have resigned themselves to the likelihood that they face a lengthy prison term.
Police are waiting for a translator before officially questioning them, which is expected to happen in the next few days.
Ms Reid and Ms McCollum Connolly have claimed they were given the 24lb of cocaine outside their hotel, the Hotel Colonial San Agustin in the capital Lima, the day before they were due to fly back to Spain.
The pair, who deny drug trafficking, claimed they were ordered at gunpoint by Colombian gangsters to smuggle the drugs out of Lima.