Peru Two drug mule Michaella McCollum admits she thought South American country 'was in Spain'
Drug smuggler Michaella McCollum has admitted she thought Peru was in Spain when she agreed to become a cocaine mule for a drug dealer in Ibiza.
Michaella, from Dungannon, and Melissa Reid from Scotland were dubbed the 'Peru Two' after they were caught trying to smuggle 11kg of cocaine worth £1.5m out of the South American country's capital Lima in August 2013.
The pair were sentenced to six years and eight months in prison but were released in 2016.
Michaella said she had originally travelled to Ibiza to escape her hometown of Dungannon, to get away from a "complicated relationship" with her absent father, to escape an abusive boyfriend and to get away from the "unrest and violence" in Northern Ireland.
In an extract of her book "You'll Never See Daylight Again", published in the Mail on Sunday, Michaella says she had originally agreed to pick up a package of drugs in Barcelona for a drug dealer called Davey before the plan was later changed.
"On August 1, 2013, my fate was sealed," she said.
"That was the day I was introduced to an associate of Davey's called Mateo, a tall, skinny guy from Colombia. 'There's been a change of plan,' Mateo told me. 'You're not going to Barcelona any more. You're going to Peru.'
"People will have their own opinions of me for everything that's happened, and what I'm going to admit now is only going to give them more fuel. But the sorry truth is I had no idea where Peru was. No clue. I thought it was another Spanish town."
Michaella was then told, as it was her first time being a smuggler, she would be travelling with a second woman. This woman was Melissa Reid.
Mateo told her that she would be picking up the drugs in Lima after flying in from Majorca and that officials in Peru customs had been bribed and the drugs would not be discovered.
She was told she would be paid £5,000 for the trip.
Melissa flew out on Monday August 5 to Lima, with Michaella following the next day.
Michaella said: "I still didn't know where Peru was, but I guessed it was on the opposite side of Spain from Barcelona because of the time the flight was taking. Yes, astonishing as it sounds, I was that naive."
Michaella admits that she did not realise she was flying to South America until after being on the plane for six hours.
After arriving in Lima, she met Melissa, who she describes as "annoying".
The pair visited tourist destinations for a couple of days as part of their cover. However, they then got a call and collected the drugs from contacts in Lima.
Michaella and Melissa then attempted to fly back to Spain the next day, with 11kg of cocaine in their luggage.
Michaella describes the heart stopping moment her case, packed full of cocaine, was going past a drugs sniffer dog and an armed man standing beside a baggage carousel in the airport.
"My pulse was racing, which is the last thing you want in that situation. Apparently, dogs can read that too.
"Ten feet. That's how far away the case was from the dog. Then nine feet, eight, seven. I had to take a breath, but my heart was still coming out of my chest. Six feet to go. Five feet. Four feet.
"Oh my God, I just want to run. But I had to stand still. Three feet until make or break. Then two feet. Then… My case was next to the dog and a man with a machine gun. Neither of them moved.
"It passed them both and headed towards the gap in the wall. Somehow, miraculously, we had got away with it. Then I realised Melissa was no longer standing next to me. She was being led by the arm into a room behind the check-in desk. Her bags were being carried there too.
"Behind her were six men wielding semi-automatic weapons. Three dogs strained anxiously on their leashes. We'd got away with nothing. The game was up."
Michaella was taken to Ancon prison, one of South America's maximum-security jails- where drug abuse, hunger and violence are rife.
She describes a moment when a Brazilian woman called Danielle attempted to attack her with a kitchen knife after turning the channel on the TV in the prison.
'Michaella, look out!' I turn my head just in time to see the blade – a kitchen knife, gleaming, unmistakably sharp and destined for my head. I freeze and close my eyes. Stupid, but it's instinct. I'm terrified," she said.
"Then there's a scream, a blood-curdling one. But thankfully it doesn't come from me and I open my eyes just in time to see my would-be killer wrestled to the floor by a fellow prisoner."
Michaella admits her guilt but says she only "sort of" knew what she was doing, adding that she was "hung out to dry" by a bunch of gangsters and the Peruvian justice system.
Belfast Telegraph Digital