Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Michaella McCollum finally admits she smuggled cocaine into Peru - and made up kidnapping story after being left homeless in Ibiza

EXCLUSIVE: The truth about Dungannon drugs mule and the secret text messages between the Peru Two

Michaella McCollum Connolly
Michaella McCollum Connolly
Michaella McCollum's mother Norah McCollum and sister Samantha McCollum vist the Peru prison
Michaella McCollum's mother Norah McCollum and sister Samantha McCollum vist the Peru prison
Michaella McCollum Connolly in one of her club hostess outfits

Peruvian police have revealed for the first time how Dungannon drugs mule Michaella McCollum has finally admitted she DID smuggle cocaine for cash, after being left broke and homeless on the party island of Ibiza.

Explosive new details reveal how the 20-year-old from Co Tyrone, willingly offered up her services to a South American drugs gang for €5,000 after she met them in a San Antonio bar.

The encounter came as her dreams of becoming a nightclub dancer were left shattered, after bar owners told her she did not have enough experience to work on the sunshine isle.

It left cash-strapped McCollum, whose sensational kidnap story was nothing more than a pack of lies, sleeping on the floor of an apartment belonging to someone she barely knew.

She was introduced to the drug cartel through a “low level” drug dealer in The Amsterdam bar, who had been asked to find two women willing to traffick the £1.5m stash of drugs for cash.

The model was then flown to Majorca to meet Scot Melissa Reid, who cops say had a close relationship with the drug lords they claimed kidnapped and held them at gunpoint. The nightclub hostess made the dramatic confession to prosecutors last year, after being told she and Reid would spend the next 15 years behind bars — unless they told the truth.

In a signed statement on October 1, the Peru 2, who received six years behind bars after confessing, not only revealed the entire details of their international drugs escapade, but also named members of the Colombian drug cartel behind the plot, who are now being hunted by police.

 “They changed their story around by 360 degrees. Without doubt, they accepted that neither they nor their families were ever threatened to force them to commit this crime,” Peruvian prosecutor Juan Mendoza tells an RTE documentary on the case tomorrow night.

“They were interested in the chance to make easy money. The organisation didn’t pay them… they gave them an advance, but they were not paid their fee which, I remember was to be approximately €5,000.”

Top Peruvian police chief Colonel Tito Perez added: “They were recruited by a Colombian citizen, known as Enrique and it was this person who made contact here in Peru with the drug supplier. I believe he’s called Lucho.

“Maybe Melissa was somehow connected, that’s not to say she was directly involved in the trafficking, maybe she had connections.

“I think that it was Melissa who directed her (Michaella) to come to Peru, but on the orders of the drug traffickers.”

The shocking revelations come just months after Sunday Life’s world exclusive interview with the drugs mule, who publicly was still keeping up the façade that she had been kidnapped to carry out the cocaine run.

Juan Mendoza - Peruvian State Prosecutor
Juan Mendoza - Peruvian State Prosecutor

This newspaper also revealed how police at Peru’s top drugs unit said they knew the pair did the drugs run for cash.

New information on the case will be aired by Belfast film company Below The Radar on RTE’s Michaella, Peru And The Drugs Run show tomorrow night.

The programme will also follow Michaella’s mother Norah and sister Samantha, who protested her innocence, as they visit her in jail for the first time.

They gave an emotional account of how they didn’t want the 20-year-old, who had never been on a plane before, to leave for the Spanish island last June.

And they also told how mum Norah had been paying for Michaella’s upkeep in a Spanish hostel and sending her over cash, as she struggled to find work.

They also said that in one of Michaella’s last text messages, she told of plans to go to South America on a “holiday”.

The documentary, which also shows never-seen-before pictures of the pair in Peru, reveal how police knew from the moment they were arrested at Jorge Chavez International airport last August of their part in the huge drug trafficking operation. Police, who seized their phones straight away, found text messages between the two plotting the smuggling trip.

That included texts from Michaella, who travelled to Peru a day after Melissa, about how she was helping the gang book her flights at a travel agents.

When Michaella touched down in Lima, Melissa was waiting at the airport to pick her up. As Michaella cleared customs, the two again were still exchanging text messages.

“They were picked up and transported. Everything was arranged,” said Mr Mendoza. “They were instructed that if anyone questioned them at the airport, they would tell a story that would be a plausible reason for them being in the country.

“The Public Prosecutor explained to them that this version of their story was not believable, that under Peruvian law this was a case of drug muling at an international level.”

The prosecutor added: “It became a family drama, because the family as always don’t believe that their children are involved in these types of activities. They accepted responsibility in the international trafficking of drugs.”

Michaella’s sister Samantha said that even if the 20-year-old did smuggle the Class A drugs for cash, she would “never judge her”.

“Michaella has never spoken to me saying that she has done it for money. I think that Michaella, was naively lured into something, but there was no mention of money.”

Mum Norah added: “I never thought in a million years that I would even know someone in a situation like this, let alone my own child. I was worried about her going to Ibiza, but I never thought anything like this would have happened.”

Michaella, Peru And The Drugs Run, is on RTE One tomorrow at 9.35pm.

Michaella is expert in lies and self-pity

REVELATIONS that Michaella McCollum did in fact smuggle cocaine for cash will come as a shock to no-one — least of all, me.

I visited the drugs mule inside Virgen de Fatima prison last December, and her tear-filled account of how Colombian drug lords had held a gun to her head and forced her on a plane was as unconvincing in person as it was hearing it on the news.

Michaella McCollum's mother Norah McCollum and sister Samantha McCollum vist the Peru prison
Michaella McCollum's mother Norah McCollum and sister Samantha McCollum vist the Peru prison

Now we know the young nightclub dancer for what she really is, a self-pitying liar who thought she could pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.

She thought that by playing the victim, with a fantastical account of how a criminal gang threatened to kill her and track down her family, would in some way excuse the despicable deal she and Melissa Reid willingly went into. How wrong she was.

Unknown to me, by the time I met Michaella last year, she had already secretly confessed to Peruvian prosecutors the real story of the Peru 2.

They were not kidnapped, they were not threatened and they were not forced. They did it for the cold, hard cash.

And in those three-and-a-half hours I spent with her under a prison yard parasol in the Peruvian sun, she told lie, after lie after lie.

“I keep thinking, what if? What if I hadn’t stayed late after work, or stayed for those last few drinks? I was working in Ushuaia dancing and I met a few people who I had been hanging out with since June,” she told me, insincerely, as she looked to the floor.

“We went to a house party and one of the guys that I had been partying with had just come back from Barcelona with his girlfriend.

“They said they were going back to Barcelona tomorrow, and asked me did I want to go. My passport was taken off me and I was told I was going to Majorca, not Barcelona.”

Lies.

“Then we were taken to a house, they were all in their 40s and looked like gangsters. The Colombian... kept touching my face and calling me princess. All of them kept saying to us that we had to go and do a job for them and there was no turning back now.”

More lies.

“One of the men showed me pictures of my sister and brother. I knew then they got the pictures off Facebook, but that scared me because you can get so much from Facebook.”

Even more lies.

And finally: “We were too scared to tell anyone.” Lies, lies, lies.

Though an initial admission of guilt may not have garnered much more sympathy, holding their hands up, and saying, “We made a mistake” would have been much more admirable than the stream of lies which they thought would not only fool police, but their friends, their family, and even us.

Pair’s text messages revealed

POLICE in Peru have released a series of secret text messages between cocaine smugglers Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid during their smuggling trip to the South American country.

And far from the scared, vulnerable young women they portrayed themselves to be to police, prosecutors and the public, the messages tell a different story.

Police found the incriminating texts, after seizing their phones at Jorge Chavez International Airport in August.

They reveal how Melissa, said to have ‘led' Michaella in the drugs trip, flew to Lima a day before her dancer pal.

She texted Michaella, as the Dungannon woman arrived at a travel agents in Palma to book her flights to Peru. With her, was a member of the drugs gang, who paid for the trip.

Melissa, who comes from Lenzie near Glasgow, wrote: ‘Flight is actually 12 hours, prepare yourself. I just arrived xxx’

Michaella replied: ‘You ave just arrived wow! We are in travel agents now xxx’

After booking the flights, Michaella sent another text, a few minutes later.

It said: ‘My flight is this evening at 6.50, leaving to go to airport at 5.’

Melissa: ‘OK sweetcheeks xxx’

In another text on the same day, Melissa said: “Buzzing to see you girl…and only been separated for like 2 days’.

Michaella wrote back: ‘I know I can’t wait to see ya.’

When Michaella touched down in Lima, Melissa was waiting at the airport to pick her up.

As Michaella cleared customs, the two again exchanged text messages. Neither of them were impressed by Peru.

Michaella (after going through customs in Peru) texted: ‘I hate this place and people already.’

Melissa replied: ‘Lima is sh*t.’

The pair, who both had travel |itineraries, had flown from Palma de Mallorca to Madrid to Lima.

They then travelled together to Peru’s Inca Country and The Sacred Valley, where they posed as tourists, before returning to Lima to pick up the haul of cocaine worth more than £1.5m.

I sacked her after just one night

THE owner of the notorious Ibizan bar at the centre of the Peru 2 drug scandal claims he sacked Michaella McCollum after just one night.

Andreas Garcia (pictured right) said the waitress failed to bring in money when she was asked to sell shots to customers.

He made the claims in the RTE documentary, airing tomorrow night, which alleges the 20-year-old dancer first met the drugs gang in his bar.

The drugs mule, from Dungannon, worked in the bar last July, just weeks before her arrest for trying to smuggle 11 kilos of cocaine out of Peru.

He said: “What happened was she asked me for some work selling shots, and I said ‘yeah’. I said ‘please start’, and I gave her a bottle of Jagermeister.

“She thought maybe her job was to sit here and wait for the boys to come and ask for a shot and I said ‘no, no, you must go to the table and ask do the boys want a shot’.

“And at the end of the night, I see half a bottle, and I said ‘Give me the money.’She was drinking it. I said, ‘I’m sorry, no more.’”

It has since transpired that McCollum’s only real job on the island was in the West End bar, after she lied about dancing in a popular nightclub.

The nightspot claims it does not allow any illegal substance to be taken or sold on its premises.

“If I see anyone sell it, I sack,” Mr Garcia said.

Another bar owner on the Spanish island, Englishman Nathan Viva, said news of Michaella’s disappearance left many fearing the worst.

However, when news broke of her arrest in Peru, he said sympathy immediately waned for her.

He said: “You have this concern and now you’re going, I don’t care. And not just I don’t care but actually, I can’t believe she has done this to us. I feel as if I’ve been duped into having these feelings.

“What were we wasting time on this girl for?”

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