Peru 'drug mules' Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid in brilliant health in modern prison, says Irish priest

Women hope admissions of guilt will bring their jail time down to six years and eight months

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The Independent Online

An Irish priest has described two women awaiting sentencing for drug trafficking in Peru as in “brilliant” health and “very very well” after visiting the pair in prison.

Michaella McCollum, 20 and Melissa Reid, 20 were visited by Father Maurice Foley last Saturday, where he said he found them sitting under a parasol in a yard in the jail drinking coffee whilst making phonecalls.

“(They are) brilliant. Very, very well,” he said.

“They weren't in a cell. They were out in a wide open space sitting at a table with a parasol, they were talking and drinking coffee.

“As well as that they had telephone communication and they could use it for calling home. I thought they were in great form actually.”

McCollum, 20, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and co-accused Reid, 20, from Glasgow, pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges.  They had hoped an admission of guilt would reduce their jails sentences to six years and eight months.

Both women were detained at Peru’s Lima Airport when officers found 11kg of cocaine worth £1.5million concealed in food packages stashed in their luggage.

The women are now waiting to be sentenced after prosecutors demanded more information before accepting their admissions of guilt.

Fr Foley said he firmly believed they had been coerced into “a compromising situation” and they were forced to enter customs with the drugs in their suitcases.

He said prosecutors want the girls to hand over names and addresses of the gang who coerced them into the trafficking.

“They don't have that”, he said. “All they have is the name of a cockney […] and that's no good.”

He said McCollum became very emotional when he took her to one side and warned her that he expects she will receive seven years, although he thought the sentence may be reduced at a later stage.

McCollum and Reid initially claimed they were kidnapped, held at gunpoint and forced to board a flight from Lima to Spain with 24lbs of cocaine in food packets hidden inside their luggage when they were arrested.

Additional reporting by Press Association