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Prison diaries are purely a celebration of self

By Suzanne Breen

Published 22/08/2016

Michaella McCollum, left, and Melissa Reid listen to a translator during a hearing at court in Callao, Peru (AP)
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Prison diaries can be absolutely engrossing. They give eye-opening accounts into the inmate and the conditions in which they are incarcerated.

Nelson Mandela's letters from Robben Island were poetic in their power and beauty.

His dignity and determination radiate in every sentence.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago was a damning testimony of Stalin's forced labour camp.

Jeffrey Archer's A Prison Diary by FF8282 gave an emotional insight into the harsh, soul-destroying existence of men in Belmarsh.

And now, joining the pantheon of jailhouse journals, is the prison diary and recollections of the Peru Two's most famous one.

Bikini waxes, birthday parties, and our girl rejecting the advances of men who fell in love with her provide the ingredients of Michaella McCollum's musings.

There is even a section in the Irish Mail on Sunday headlined 'My Prison Wardrobe' with pics of Michaella in playful poses wearing Peruvian national dress and a sexy sailor girl costume.

That it's taken just a week since Michaella's return home for this material to appear says it all really.

And the question must be asked if money changed hands between McCollum - or her proxies - and the newspapers involved.

Those of us who predicted that the Dungannon woman would carve out a career for herself as a celebrity criminal were lambasted by some of her supporters.

"Give the girl a chance," we were told by those who predicted that McCollum would settle down to an ordinary, anonymous life.

Seven days after arriving back in Ireland, we are treated to accounts of how she ran her own beauty salon in prison, and copies of love letters penned by men who didn't even know her.

Her family sent her out a massage table and other bits and bobs for her to run her beauty business.

Michaella was raking in 1,000 soles (£230) a week from bikini waxes, blow drying, manicures and the like.

That shows an admirable entrepreneurial spirit in adverse circumstances.

This young woman is not one of life's victims.

Yet when discussing her business acumen, came a line that gives the game away about what makes McCollum tick.

She paid poorer inmates - presumably Peruvian, Mexican, and Brazilian girls - to clean her cell for the miserly sum of 10 soles (£2.30) a week.

Asked why she didn't do this job herself, she replied: "Because it's so dirty.

"I mean, even the bathroom, you wouldn't even touch.

"You're literally cleaning your own c***."

Silly us.

How could we expect Michaella to undertake such a menial task.

A drug trafficker is obviously a cut above handling a bucket and bleach and engaging in a bit of elbow grease.

Why bother with that when you can have hired help? Our imprisoned correspondent continues on a similar vein as regards other subjects.

In a diary entry dated 'Monday November 3' she paints a graphic picture of her battle with the heat: "I can't sleep at night as it's so hot.

"I strip to my underwear, doesn't help.

"I take all my bedding and teddys off."

And, of course, Michaella discloses the 500 letters she received from men across the world who have fallen in love with her.

Then, there's her married prison psychologist, Marco, who is similarly smitten.

What is missing from McCollum's writings is any genuine empathy for the women she has left behind in prison in Peru, the women who haven't been as lucky as her to escape with serving a third of their sentences.

This is a celebration of self.

It's not Prisoner Cell Block H territory.

Those women, for all their flaws, never failed to be engaging and interesting.

Belfast Telegraph

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