Michaella McCollum Connolly moved to Lima prison to await trial for drug smuggling

Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid

The two women arrested on suspicion of attempting to smuggle cocaine worth over $2.5 million out of Peru were taken to Lima's Virgen de Fatima jail on Thursday.

Michaella McCollum Connolly, 20, from Dungannon, County Tyrone and Melissa Reid, 20, from Glasgow face a maximum prison sentence of 15 years if convicted of illegal drugs trafficking.

According to the Irish Times during a public court appearance on Wednesday the pair were formally charged with the promotion of drug trafficking and were refused bail. The prosecutor's office announced it will seek a custodial sentence of between 8-15 years.

A Peru Prison Service spokesman told the Irish Times that the two women had been transferred to Virgen de Fatima jail. 'The typical convict there is a woman convicted of robbery or drugs offenses. No murderers are held there at the moment,' the spokesman said.

The jail is about 12 miles outside Lima.

In court on Wednesday Judge Dilo Huaman asked the two women why, if they were acting under the orders of a drugs gang, they had not asked for help at any point. Both women replied that they had been repeatedly threatened and were afraid to do so.

The public prosecutor blasted their story as 'incoherent.'

Monaghan-born Connolly has become a kind of celebrity in the Peruvian media, with the local tabloid press describing her as the Irish girl who 'looks like the singer Amy Winehouse.' 

According to the Irish Independent the girls' story that they were being forced to carry the drugs by an armed gang has gained widespread attention in the press.

The Virgen de Fatima jail is well known to the public and former prisoners have told the press that bullying and prostitution as a form of survival are very commonplace there.

Meanwhile at their hearing on Wednesday the pair were told they could face a wait of up to three years before their case goes to trial. They were also told it was unlikely they would be granted bail.