'We didn't have a choice', insist young women detained in Peru after being found in possession of £1.5m worth of cocaine

The two women say they were forced to become mules by violent Colombian drugs gang

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The Independent Online

Two young women being held on suspicion of trying to smuggle £1.5 million of cocaine out of Peru have claimed they were forced to take the drugs during a secret meeting.

Michaella McCollum Connolly, 20, from Northern Ireland, and Melissa Reid, 19, a Scot, were arrested while trying to board a flight from Lima, the Peruvian capital, to Spain last week.

The pair say they were coerced into carrying the drugs by a violent gang, and told reporters they have resigned themselves to the likelihood of lengthy prison terms.

Police are waiting for a translator before officially questioning them, which is expected to happen in the next few days, the Associated Press said.

Ms Reid and Ms McCollum Connolly said they were given the 24lb (11kg) of cocaine outside their hotel, the Hotel Colonial San Agustin in Lima, the day before were due to fly back to Spain, the Daily Mail said.

Speaking from inside police headquarters in Lima, Ms Reid told the newspaper: “I was the one who went to pick up the drugs outside our hotel.

“At that point I didn't know what was in the suitcase, drugs, guns or money, and we were like, 'we're not going to do it'. But they said, 'We've been watching you and you've got to do it'.”

The pair, who deny drug trafficking allegations, claim they were ordered at gunpoint by Colombian gangsters to smuggle the drugs out of Peru.

Ms McCollum Connolly told the Mail: “I didn't realise drugs were so big here but it happens all the time. The police have said they see girls like us all the time. We've resigned ourselves to the fact that we're not going home soon and are doing jail time here.”

Ms Reid told The Sun that her life had been turned upside down by the events and that she longed to be home.

She said: “If I could turn back time I think I'd put a gun to my head and get it all over with quickly. I'd love to be able to get home as soon as possible, but I know that's not going to happen.

“I understand that even if we help police, we're going to prison for a long time.”

The two women had been working on the Spanish island of Ibiza, where they say they were snared by a drug cartel, robbed of their passports and phones and followed as they travelled on separate flights from Spain to Peru.

Once in South America, they say they were ordered to carry the cocaine hidden inside food packets.

The women insist they are now working with Peruvian police in an attempt to clear their names, and said they have visited the hotel where the drugs drop took place with police, who are looking for CCTV of the incident, the Mail said.

Ms McCollum Connolly, who holds an Irish passport, told The Sun they were trying to help police find the men behind the drugs gang to prove their innocence.

She said: “We'll take responsibility for what was found on us but we didn't do it of our own free will, we didn't have a choice.”

She added: “Obviously we'd prefer to be somewhere else, but we're being treated ok. We're eating and have a bed to sleep on, even though it's more like a piece of concrete than anything.”

Ms McCollum Connolly's ex-boyfriend, Andreas Garcia, said that it was common for young people in Ibiza to be forced into dealing drugs by violent pushers - though there is no suggestion the women used drugs.