Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Peru court hearing for 'drugs' pair

Michaella McCollum, left, and Melissa Reid stand behind their luggage after being detained at the airport in Lima, Peru (AP)

Two women arrested on suspicion of trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5 million from Peru have appeared in court to find out if they will be charged.

Michaella McCollum, 20, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, in Northern Ireland, and Melissa Reid, 20, from Glasgow, have spent the last two weeks in custody over drug trafficking allegations.

The pair were arrested while trying to board a flight from Lima to Madrid. Peruvian police said they found around 11 kilos (24lb) of cocaine hidden inside food packages.

They are due to officially hear the charges against them later after making statements, the BBC reported.

The women, who both deny the allegations and say they were forced to carry the bags under duress, are expected to enter not guilty pleas. They made no comment as they entered the court in Lima.

Officers say they have concluded their initial investigation into the case with their findings forming the basis of a pre-trial hearing that will determine what the pair are to be charged with.

If refused bail, the women face up to three years in jail before a trial. They both deny the allegations and claim they were forced to carry the bags by armed men.

But further questions about the two women's version of events were raised following the emergence of photographs that allegedly show them posing on a balcony and on a beach with glasses of beer days before they were arrested at Lima airport.

The pair say they were told to take photos of themselves at tourist spots to make it look like they were friends travelling together, the Daily Mail said.

Ms Reid's father William Reid, who has flown to Peru to be with his daughter, agreed the photos were ambiguous, but told the newspaper: "I want to know who took that picture of them on their balcony. Was it taken by a third person or by a minder?"

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