A top human rights lawyer has claimed alleged drugs mule Michaella McCollum Connolly was kidnapped by a gang and forced to transport narcotics out of Peru.
Belfast lawyer Peter Madden made the comments after a six-hour meeting with McCollum Connolly and police officers in Lima.
The 20-year-old was also re-united with her brother Keith after he accompanied Madden to South America.
The well known human rights lawyer told reporters that McCollum Connolly is adamant she was ‘kidnapped by a gang in Spain and forced to travel to Peru as a drugs mule.'
He told the Irish Independent that McCollum Connolly is now ‘prepared to work with the police’ in Peru to bring down the drugs cartel who threatened her life.
The Dungannon girl and Scottish travelling companion Melissa Reid are about to be charged with drug trafficking offences.
They were arrested by customs officers at Jorge Chavez Airport near Lima carrying cocaine worth €1.7m in their luggage.
Madden said: “Michaella is denying any wrongdoing. Both she and Ms Reid had been taken advantage of by a gang. She was under severe pressure and fear.”
After the meeting, Madden added: “Michaella is fine but upset.”
Madden had to persuade the Peruvian police to allow him to sit on their initial questioning of McCollum Connolly.
He told the Irish Independent that he had arrived at the police station very early in the morning and was faced with the dilemma that Michaella was about to be questioned without a lawyer.
He added: “I asked them to postpone the interview. After a lot of arguments, they did agree to postpone the questioning.”
A judge will now examine the results of those questions and answers and decide whether or not there is a ‘prima facea’ case.
The pair could be formally charged on Saturday and appear in court later.
Madden said a court appearance was likely to take place early next week.
Jackie Kennedy’s granddaughter has uncannily similar looks