Belfast Telegraph

Peru drug arrests: Michaella McCollum Connolly's lawyer denies reports she owed €4,000 debt

By Martina Hanlon and Claire Murphy in Lima

The lawyer for suspected drugs mule Michaella McCollum Connolly has denied she tried to smuggle cocaine to pay off a €4,000 debt.

Solicitor Peter Madden said his client, who is in custody in Peru, had made no mention of the alleged debt and insisted she had been kidnapped and forced to smuggle the drugs.

Sources in Ibiza, where the Co Tyrone model had been working when she disappeared in July, said she had racked up the debt with an English drug dealer on the island.

Ms McCollum Connolly turned up last week in jail in Lima along with Glaswegian Melissa Reid (20) after they were accused of trying to smuggle £1.5m of drugs out of the country.

Asked about the debt claims, Mr Madden said: "My response to that is that it is pure speculation."

The two women expect to make a preliminary appearance before a judge early this week and face lengthy jail sentences if they are convicted.

They deny the allegations, insisting they were threatened at gunpoint by a drugs gang in Spain and forced into becoming drugs mules.

Mr Madden, who arrived in Lima on Friday with Ms McCollum Connolly's brother Keith, said he has "very serious concerns about this process".

He is organising Ms McCollum Connolly's defence along with Peruvian lawyers.

The Belfast lawyer said: "If Michaella wants to defend herself, she has to get a trial and there is no chance of bail.

"She is going to be actually serving a prison sentence whether or not she gets acquitted.

"I am looking into whether there is any way to challenge that."

Mr Madden said he was present during a seven-hour police interrogation of his client.

He said she told police she was taken at gunpoint by a gang in Ibiza and coerced into smuggling the drugs.

He said: "She was tricked into going to an apartment, a gun was produced and put to her head."

Mr Madden said the gang produced copies of photos of her family, which she believes came from Facebook.

And she was told there were people watching her every move and any slip-up would result in her family being harmed.

"It was a very, very serious ordeal she described," he added.

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