Michaella McCollum Connolly's mother weeps on first visit to drug mule daughter in Peru prison
Michaella McCollum Connolly's devastated family has spoken of the emotion of visiting her in prison for the first time since she was jailed for cocaine smuggling in Peru.
The Dungannon woman's mother Norah and sister Samantha burst into tears when they were reunited with her at the Virgen de Fatima jailhouse near Lima.
Norah told how she and her daughter wept in each other's arms as they met for the first time since Michaella left Northern Ireland to work abroad last summer.
"It was very emotional. We just hugged each other and cried," Norah said. "I never thought in a thousand years I would even know someone in a situation like this, never mind my own child.
"There was a lot of crying at the start, lots of hugging and crying," the devastated mother said.
Norah and Samantha hadn't seen Michaella since she left her Dungannon home eight months previously for a holiday in Ibiza.
Norah admitted that she had been worried about her daughter going to Ibiza in the first place.
"When young people go abroad you never know what will happen to them, or what company they keep," she told an RTE One documentary due to be aired tonight.
"I was worried about her going to Ibiza but I never thought anything like this would happen."
In December, the 'Peru Two', Michaella and Melissa Reid, admitted smuggling cocaine worth £1.5m and were jailed for six years and eight months.
Police believe the two women were paid €5,000 each for smuggling the drugs.
Melissa and Michaella are currently both serving their sentences in Peru. Their families, however, are desperate to get them back home. Norah still struggles to grasp how her daughter could have become involved in drug trafficking.
"She knows we're suffering even though she's locked up in there," she said. "Her whole family is suffering."
Michaella's mother said her daughter had confided that she was devastated when she was first sent to prison.
"She said she was really depressed and sad and was crying every night. But she realised she wasn't going to get through it doing that," Norah said.
The documentary also heard details of how Michaella finally admitted she willingly smuggled cocaine after becoming homeless in Ibiza. She is believed to have signed a statement last year naming members of a Colombian drugs cartel she says were behind the plot.
Story so far
Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid – both 20 – were stopped at Lima airport on their way to Spain carrying £1.5m worth of cocaine. They reportedly told authorities they were kidnapped in Ibiza, forced to travel to Majorca, then sent to Peru and forced to carry drugs in their luggage. Michaella is now reported to have admitted that she made up the kidnap story.