Michaella McCollum must stay in Peru despite Reid ruling

Peruvian judge allows Scottish drug smuggler to return home following prison release

British 22-year-old Melissa Reid, who was jailed in 2013 along with Irish woman Michaella McCollum for cocaine smuggling, is released from jail in Peru after authorities agreed to expel her from the country. Video: Reuters

 

Irish drug smuggler Michaella McCollum will have to stay in Peru on parole even after a judge allowed the Scottish woman with whom she was arrested to leave the South American country following her release from prison .

Melissa Reid (22) was freed this week after three years in prison.

She was seen in Lima’s airport on Tuesday evening with her father Billy. It is understood they returned to Scotland via Amsterdam.

Reid was ordered to leave the country after a Peruvian judge said she had served her time, less than three years into her six-year-and-eight-month sentence.

Under Peruvian law, non-nationals can be expelled from the country after they have served at least one- third of their sentence.

However, McCollum (23) was released on parole back in March as part of a separate process that requires her to appear in court again for a hearing which will determine when she will be able to return home to Dungannon in Co Tyrone.

“The processes engaged in Michaella’s release from prison were different from that of Ms Reid,” says Belfast solicitor Kevin Winters, who is representing the McCollum family.

“Michaela has a further repatriation hearing before a judicial authority in Peru.

“There is no confirmed date for that yet. That hearing will determine if and when she is due to return home any time soon.”

Arrest

The pair were arrested in August 2013 as they tried to board a flight from Lima to Madrid with 11kg of cocaine, with an estimated value of €1.8 million, hidden in food packets in their luggage.

They initially claimed they had been forced into carrying the drugs by traffickers who had threatened to kill their families if they refused.

Originally facing up to 15 years in prison, they secured a shorter sentence after admitting their guilt.

The women had travelled to Peru from Ibiza.

Peru is the world’s second largest producer of cocaine after Colombia. Its prisons contain drug mules from across the world who were caught trying to traffic the product out of the country.

In an interview with RTÉ after her release on parole, McCollum described her decision to smuggle the drugs as “a moment of madness”.

She said she plans to study psychology after returning home and believes she deserves a second chance.

“In life, everybody makes mistakes, people make mistakes, it doesn’t make them a bad person,” she told RTÉ.

“I’m not the same person that I was when I committed the crime . . . I’ve matured a lot, I’ve learnt a lot of things that [in] 10 years in university I probably couldn’t learn.”