D-DAY FOR COCAINE ‘DRUG MULE’ GIRLS HELD IN PERU

Michaela McCollum Connolly (left) and Melissa Reid will find out on Monday what charges they will face

Michaela McCollum Connolly (left) and Melissa Reid will find out on Monday what charges they will face

A NORTHERN Ireland dancer and her travelling companion will find out their fate later on Monday.

A police file from the Peruvian police’s drug squad will pass to the local prosecutor in Lima to decide on what charges to bring against Michaela McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid.

Ms McCollum Connolly, 20, from Dungannon, and 19-year-old Melissa Reid, from Glasgow, have been in custody for almost two weeks after they were arrested on suspicion of trying to traffic £1.5 million worth of cocaine out of the country to Spain.

They were stopped after a sniffer dog picked up the scent of drugs from their luggage in the Jorge Chavez International airport on Tuesday, August 6.

The women deny the allegations saying a 14-strong armed gang kidnapped them at gunpoint and forced them to carry the bags.

However, police in Spain have poured cold water on the claims saying they don’t believe they were forced to take the drugs.

Peruvian police say that if they are charged and convicted they face eight years behind bars.

Over the past fortnight, police have been retracing the girls’ steps in Lima by visiting a number of hotels they had been staying in.

Officers had also gathered video evidence from the city of Cusco where they claimed the drug gang had taken them.

The report is due to form the main case of the pre-trial hearing which will decide what the two young women will be charged with.

If refused bail, they could face up to three years in jail before trial.

Legal experts in Peru suggest the normal charge in such a case would be for drug smuggling.

If they are accused of being members of a criminal organisation, they could face harsher sentences.

Ms McCollum’s lawyer, Peter Madden, flew out to Peru on Friday to visit her in the police remand compound.

He can only act in advisory capacity to her can cannot formally represent her in court.

It is unclear who is paying his legal fees.

Mr Madden said at the weekend he intends to discuss her case with police later at the holding centre in Lima where the pair are being detained.

Ms Reid and Ms McCollum had been working at bars in San Antonio, Ibiza – a popular resort for thousands of young British tourists every summer – when they said they were befriended by a man from London.

They claimed they were then forced at gunpoint to make the journey to Peru, shadowed by gang members along the way.

They were stopped on 6 August when they tried to board a flight from Lima airport to Madrid.

The women have previously said they were unable to go to the authorities because the gang had threatened to kill their families if they did not co-operate.

 

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