Belfast Telegraph

Cocaine smuggler Michaella McCollum's hospital wait in Peru

By Ali Gordon

Drugs mule Michaella McCollum will have had a long wait for hospital treatment in Peru, according to her priest pal.

The cocaine smuggler from Dungannon is believed to have contracted a tropical illness while inside Peru’s notorious Ancon 2 jail.

“There is no actual hospital in the prison so if her illness was serious then she will have needed to be treated by a doctor,” said Lima-based priest Archbishop Sean Walsh.

“There is a state hospital nearby so she’d have been taken out of the prison and transported there.

“The problem with that is that while there are good doctors in the state hospitals, you are one in a long line of people to be taken care of.

“The facilities are not bad but you wait a while for medical attention because there are simply too many people for the state hospitals to handle.”

Inmates have alleged that Michaella fell ill last Sunday but the Irish-American priest, who talks to Michaella on the phone, does not believe the 23-year-old’s condition is serious.

“I think if it was a serious illness, I would heard about it by now,” he said.

“Michaella’s mother and I still write to one another so I would be surprised if Michaella had something that was particularly major or life-threatening because I think someone here in Peru would know about it.”

Michaella and Scottish pal, Melissa, who met in Ibiza, were caught trying to smuggle £1.5million of cocaine from Lima to Madrid back in August 2013. They were sentenced to six years and eight months in prison.

But new Peruvian legislation passed in 2014 allows foreign prisoners, if their sentence is less than seven years and they meet certain criteria, to be paroled in their own country.

“Sometimes a foreign prisoner can get early release but more often than not it can take a lot longer than originally planned,” said the priest. “Since the law changed last year, there has been some first-time offending prisoners who have been given early parole after serving a third of their sentence but it’s entirely up to the judges disgression and they’ve been known to drag their feet on issues like this.

“I know that Michaella would have liked to have got parole in time for Christmas but sadly things didn’t work out for her.”

Like most things in Peru, though, Archbishop Walsh says legal processes are “never very straightforward”.

He said: “It has even been difficult for me to get to the prison in Lima to see Michaella. I’m about three hours away but I’ll  visit Michaella once the paperwork is completed.”

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