Spanish police 'doubts' over claims by girls from UK arrested in Peru on cocaine charges
Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum Connolly, both 20, are accused of trying to smuggle £1.5m worth of cocaine
The head of the police investigation into drug-trafficking charges against two British women has cast doubts over claims they were coerced into attempting to smuggle cocaine out of Peru.
Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum Connolly, both 20, are accused of trying to smuggle £1.5m worth of cocaine.
They claim they were forced at gunpoint to make the journey from the Spanish holiday island of Ibiza - where they had been working in bars - after being befriended by a man from London.
They have told police they were shadowed by gang members throughout the journey and warned that if they did not pick up the drugs in Peru and bring them back to Spain their families would be killed.
However, police have said the women had several opportunities to alert the authorities.
The head of the Ibiza police unit responsible for countering organised crime, first sergeant Alberto Arian Barilla, said he did not believe they were acting under duress.
"In my experience I don't think these two girls were forced to do this because - particularly when you go to South America - you need to pass several controls," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
"The first thing you do is go to the passport control and say 'Listen, this is what is happening to me'. The policeman will react so I don't think they were forced."
The girls, Ms Reid, from Scotland, and Ms McCollum Connolly from Dungannon, Co Tyrone in Northern Ireland, were arrested last week as they attemtped to leave the Peruvian capital, Lima, on a flight to Spain.
Police said they found more than 24lb (11kg) of cocaine in food packaging in the women's luggage when they were arrested on August 6 at Lima airport.
The pair told police that they had been unable to go to the authorities as the gang had threatened to kill their families if they did not cooperate. They also claim they were robbed of passports and phones and followed as they traveled on separate flights to Peru. The National Police of Peru has since released a video of the women being questioned after their arrest.
In the video, Ms Reid is heard saying: "I was forced to take these bags in my luggage".
Yesterday photographs emerged of Ms Reid's father meeting his daughter after flying out to Lima. He has said there was no way she would be willingly involved in the smuggling of drugs.
Ms McCollum's lawyer Peter Madden says his client was threatened by up to 14 men with guns. Madden said McCollum was not offered any money.
If charged and found guilty the girls could face lengthy prison sentences.
Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'
Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'
Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?
Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent
"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier
Striker's four-month ban for biting an opponent expires on Friday
Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery rumours: 'I'm living a more fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
FCKH8: YouTube reinstates provocative anti-sexism video showing young girls swearing
Axe wielding man shot dead after attacking four New York policemen on busy street
Diwali: What is the festival of lights – and how is it celebrated around the world?
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Axe wielding man shot dead after attacking four New York policemen on busy street
- 3 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 4 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 5 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo