Peru drug suspects treated for insect bites in jail
Mother of Melissa Reid wants her to plead guilty to reduce her time in prison
Michaella McCollum Connolly (left) and Melissa Reid attend a court hearing last month. Ms Reid’s mother said the woman had received injections in jail for swelling caused by insect bites. Photograph: Reuters
Two women in custody in Peru charged trying to smuggle cocaine worth €1.7 million out of the country required medical treatment after being bitten by insects in jail.
Michaella McCollum (20) from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and Melissa Reid (20) from Glasgow, were stopped with 11kg of cocaine hidden in food packets in their luggage while trying to board a flight to Spain last month.
They are being held at the assessment centre of Lima’s Virgen de Fatima jail while they await trial. The women could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
In a television interview with ITV’s This Morning programme, Ms Reid’s mother Debra revealed the young women needed medical treatment to control severe swelling after being bitten by bugs.
Mrs Reid said she was pleased the women were being held together.
“They’ve actually been bitten by some bugs that are in the assessment unit they are being held in,” she said. “I believe they’ve had to have an injection to try and stop them from (swelling up).
“The language barrier (is difficult), she’s determined to learn Spanish so she can speak to the guards and fellow prisoners.”
Last week, Melissa’s father William Reid said he wanted his daughter to plead guilty because the women’s case is “indefensible”.
Mr Reid said she believes Melissa and Michaella explanation that they were threatened and coerced by gangsters into smuggling the cocaine, but she also wants them to plead guilty.
“I do believe they were definitely coerced into it,” Mrs Reid said. “They didn’t do it willingly. They definitely did have the drugs in their suitcases, that part they are guilty of, but I do believe they were coerced into it.”
Mrs Reid was also asked about her husband reportedly telling a newspaper “he’s not 100 per cent on their story”.
She replied: “It’s not so much that he’s not 100 per cent, I think it’s more the legal system over there is totally different to ours. It’s over the other side of the world.
“If Melissa pleads guilty we’ll get her home earlier.”
If the women plead guilty it is expected they would be released within three years. If they plead not guilty but are subsequently convicted, they face a possible sentence of up to 15 years.
“It’s the best years of your life, from 20 to 35,” Mrs Reid said.
Next Tuesday the women will appear before a judge in Peru to give statements and to enter a plea. It could take up to two years for a full hearing of their case.