Women held in Peru claim they were ‘forced to carry drugs’

Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid ‘held captive’ in Spain before being sent to Lima

Former Irish Honorary Consul in Peru visits Michaella and Melissa

 

An Irish woman being detained in Peru on drug smuggling charges has claimed she was forced to travel there against her will after being held captive in Spain for a number of days.

Michaella McCollum Connolly (20), from Co Tyrone, said she and her Scottish co-accused, Melissa Reid (19), were separately duped by the same man.

The women have claimed they were forced at gunpoint to carry €1.7m of cocaine in their luggage. They also say that at no point were they offered money to transport the 11.5kg consignment of cocaine.

They were due to appear in court today in Lima but it now looks likely that they will have to wait until Friday or Monday of next week, to hear the charges. Under Peruvian law, anyone accused of drug smuggling can be held for up to 15 days without charge.

The women say they have been told that after the preliminary hearing, they will be moved to Santa Monica, a women’s prison on the outskirts of Lima.

It could take months or even years before the case comes to trial and it is highly unlikely they will be eligible for bail.

Women questioned at Lima Airport

Footage of Michaella Connolly in police station

Ms McCollum Connolly said she was taken from Ibiza, where she was working for the summer, to Barcelona and was held for several days before being moved to Mallorca.

“I was in a house in Barcelona, my phone was taken from me and I was not allowed to contact anyone,” she said.

Ms Reid claims she was also held captive, in Ibiza, before being flown to Mallorca, where the two say they met each other for the first time.

“While we were being kept in the house in Mallorca, Michaella and I realised we had been tricked by the same man,” Ms Reid said. “We were forced to do this against our will”.

They say they were held against their will in a house in Palma, before being forced to fly to mainland Spain and then onto Lima.

“We were threatened and told that there would be someone watching us constantly,” Ms McCollum Connolly said. “We were told there was someone travelling with us at all times and that we would be in serious trouble if we did not do as we were told.”

When they arrived in Peru, the girls travelled on to Cuzco where they spent several days touring before returning to Lima in order to fly back to Europe.

“We were controlled at all times,” said Ms Reid, “we had no choice”.

Ms McCollum Connolly’s family said they were making arrangements to travel to Peru. In a statement from their solicitor, Peter Madden, the family said they fully supported her and have contacted help groups in Lima to ensure her needs are being met.

“Michaella has been questioned by the police and has denied involvement in any criminal offence,” Mr Madden said. “I am arranging legal representation for her in Lima.”