Belfast Telegraph

Missing club hostess held by police at Peru airport over £1.5m cocaine haul

By Joanne Sweeney

A missing nightclub hostess has been arrested in Peru for her alleged involvement in trafficking cocaine with a potential street value of over £1.5m.

The Belfast Telegraph can reveal that Michaella McCollum Connolly (20) is in a South American prison after being detained as she tried to board a plane bound for Spain in the Peruvian capital of Lima.

The Belfast woman was arrested alongside a British woman, believed to be called Melissa Reid. Police claim the women were found to have more than 11kg of cocaine between them while they boarded a plane for Madrid where they were due to get a connection to Majorca.

Ms McCollum Connolly was last known by her family to be working on the Spanish island of Ibiza and was at the centre of an on-line missing person campaign after she disappeared 12 days ago.

But the Belfast Telegraph has learned that the nightclub hostess was arrested in Lima on Tuesday by drug enforcement officers.

The development was announced on the official website of the National Police of Peru on Wednesday.

The women were detained the day before at an Air Europa counter by drug enforcement officers at Jorge Chavez International Airport.

An Air Europa source confirmed that the women had flown together with the same reservation number from Palma, Majorca, on July 31, stopping in Madrid en route to Peru.

A statement from the National Police of Peru stated that the women were found to have over 11kg when they were stopped and arrested at the airport.

The police said the women's bags were searched later by officers at DIRANRO offices, Peru's anti-drug bureau, at the airport.

It is alleged in the police statement that Ms McCollum Connolly was found with 16 envelopes containing an edible product of cocaine alkaloid weighing 5.810kg.

Ms Reid was found with 18 packets of an edible product containing alkaloid cocaine weighing 5.780kg, the statement added.

The value of one kilo of cocaine varies from country to country and depends on its purity.

Last year the Metropolitan Police in London seized 11kg worth of cocaine, which it said was worth £1.5m on the street.

The statement also confirmed that the women detained were of British and Irish nationality.

Eleanor Griffis, of online magazine Peruvian Times.com, said they were likely to be in the women's prison just outside Lima, along with other foreign women.

Jail conditions there will be tougher than in a UK or Irish prison.

The development is a dramatic turnaround after the Belfast woman was at the centre of an on-line campaign launched by her worried family.

Ms McCollum Connolly had been living on the Crumlin Road, north Belfast, before leaving in mid-June for a working holiday in Ibiza where she intended to work as a dancer and nightclub hostess.

When she had not been in contact for nine days, her family sparked an appeal last Tuesday for information on her whereabouts that reached millions through social media.

The dancer and nightclub hostess worked in Belfast before travelling to Ibiza.

Her family believed she was trying to get bar work until their concerns were raised when she suddenly dropped off the radar last month.

Friends of Ms McCollum Connolly on Facebook and Twitter began to urge friends and national celebrities to highlight the fact that she was missing, in a genuine attempt to help her family determine her whereabouts.

A spokeswoman for the Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin confirmed yesterday that Ms McCollum Connolly, an Irish passport holder, was no longer considered to be missing and that it was providing consular assistance to her family.

This newspaper was unable to contact Ms McCollum Connolly or speak directly to her family.

Disappearance a mystery no more: Timeline

MID-JUNE – Michaella McCollum Connolly flies to Ibiza to work for the summer in San Antonio Bay.

JULY 27 – Family and friends report this was the last time Michaella was heard from. Unconfirmed reports that she could have been in Madrid or Barcelona.

JULY 27 – Twitter and Facebook campaigns begin with a photo of Michaella indicating that she had not been contactable.

AUGUST 9 – The Belfast Telegraph reports that the last bar Michaella claimed on her Facebook page to be working at had not in fact employed her beyond one or two evenings.

JULY 31 – Ms McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid fly from Palma Majorca to Madrid.

JULY 31 – Ms McCollum Connolly and Ms Reid fly from Madrid to Lima, Peru.

AUGUST 1– The two women take a domestic flight from Lima to the city of Cuzco, a one-hour journey.

AUGUST 5 – The pair fly from Cuzco back to Lima.

AUGUST 6 – The pair are detained by drug enforcement agents of the national police of Peru as they try to embark a flight from Lima to Madrid in Spain.

AUGUST 7 – They had also booked a flight from Madrid to Palma Majorca for this date which they didn't make following their arrest.

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