The mother of the Irish woman being held in Peru over drug trafficking charges has spoken of the family’s distress.
Michaella McCollum-Connolly, 20, from Co. Tyrone, 20, and Melissa Reid, 19, from Glasgow are accused of attempting to smuggle an estimated €1.7m worth of cocaine out of South America.
McCollum-Connolly, who is from Belfast, was arrested last Tuesday with Reid, 19 while trying to board a flight from Lima to Madrid. The two women are being held at Lima Prison. The pair are expected to appear in court later this week or early next week.
The young Irish woman made headlines last week when her family launched a Facebook appeal for information concerning her whereabouts as they had not heard from her for ten days.
The pair claim they were kidnapped and forced to carry bags in their luggage and were unaware the 32 food packets contained the class A drug.
From the family home in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, her mother Nora told reporters: “The situation is terrible for everyone.
“At the moment, we don’t know anything. We don’t know what is happening at all.”
A statement from their solicitor said, "Michaella has been questioned by the police and has denied involvement in any criminal offence.
"She will be appearing before an examining judge shortly.
"Michaella's family are obviously shocked and distressed by the recent events but are confident that Michaella will be exonerated.
"The family fully support her and they are making arrangements to travel to Peru.
"They have contacted support groups in Lima to ensure that her current needs are met.
"I am arranging legal representation for her in Lima.
"I spoke to Michaella last night and she emphasized that she denied that she was guilty of any offence. She is well. She is not on hunger strike.
"She is finding it difficult to cope with the current situation, so far from home, but is optimistic."
Parish priest Dean Colum Curry said the family were trying to stay positive.
He said: “It is just like a nightmare for them. They are at a loss as to what they can do.
“The family feel almost overwhelmed. They feel intimidated with all the callers to the door and feel a bit like prisoners in their own home. They are afraid to say anything that might jeopardise the situation.
“It is very hard to know who to trust because the system is so corrupt and that makes the situation even more worrying for them.
“But they are still hopeful.”
The two young women claim that they were forced to smuggle the drugs from Peru to Spain. They two women did not know each other before the incident.
The Irish woman claims she was kidnapped and forced into carrying goods for a gang, but that she wasn’t aware she had drugs in her possession.
She said she was threatened by the gang and told she was being watched at all times before police arrested her in Peru.
The Daily Mirror's US editor Chris Bucktin interviewed the girls in their police holding cell in Lima.
"They admit that they have cried themselves to sleep several times- in fact Melissa says she may not have any more tears," he said.
"The condition that they’re in- they're in two different cells. Melissa is sharing with another girl, Michaella is by herself.
"There is nothing in those cells - they actually sleep on their fibreglass beds."
"They knew they were going to pick something up and bring it back," Bucktin explains. "They thought it would be either drugs, money, or guns."
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