Belfast Telegraph

Michaella McCollum thought drugs were 'not that bad'

Michaella McCollum talking on RTE in April
Michaella McCollum talking on RTE in April

Convicted drug smuggler Michaella McCollum has revealed she thought illegal drugs were "not that bad".

The Dungannon woman (26) made the admission in an interview with The Times about her new book You'll Never See Daylight Again, which details her involvement in trying to smuggle 11kg of cocaine out of Peru in August 2013.

Along with her accomplice Melissa Reid, she was arrested trying to fly to Spain from the South American country's capital, Lima, and later sentenced to six years and eight months in prison.

At the age of 19 McCollum travelled to Ibiza and worked in bars and clubs and frequently took illegal drugs, such as ketamine.

She says customers were able to order drugs from her along with drinks at the bar and she would earn a commission.

"Of course I knew they [drugs] were illegal, but in Ibiza people did them in the street," she says.

"I felt like it was a whole new world, and it tricked me into thinking it was OK. You have this image of drugs as being bad and dangerous, but when you take them your opinions change. You think they're not that bad."

McCollum says she became friendly with local drug dealers and refused their first request to smuggle drugs, however she later accepted the offer, while high.

"I didn't think it was a big deal. I think I was probably taken advantage of in that I wasn't in a stable state of mind to make a proper decision," she says.

McCollum said she was desperate to avoid having to go back to Northern Ireland when the holiday season ended and thought the £5,000 fee she was offered could help her make a new start.

Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid (right) are held in Lima
Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid (right) are held in Lima

On the issue of whether or not she knew exactly what she was smuggling, the Dungannon woman said she "sort of" knew what she was doing.

"I knew I was going somewhere to pick up a package, which I presumed was going to be drugs, although nobody said the word," she says.

"I didn't really think that lifting drugs and talking them somewhere was a big deal. I didn't really know what, potentially, could happen."

After they reached Peru, McCollum and Reid picked up the drugs and went back to the airport, however they were detained at check-in and swiftly arrested.

Their arrests and subsequent convictions made headlines around the globe, with the pair dubbed the Peru Two by the media.

Despite being sentenced to more than six years in prison, they were released in 2016.

When asked why she didn't back out of the drug smuggling trip when she was sober, or seek help from the Irish consulate in Peru, McCollum says she was simply scared.

"Scared of the people, of the people, of what could happen. I just wanted to get it over with. I was constantly reassured that it would be fine and I wanted to believe that," she explains.

"I'm too trustworthy, so there's a good chance if you tell me something I'm going to believe it. I was really naive, but, yes, I could have walked away at any time. I don't know why I didn't."

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