British women accused of smuggling £1.5m of cocaine out of Peru 'to plead guilty'

Melissa Reid's lawyer is said to have agreed a plea bargain with prosecutors that could see her released within three years

Click to follow
The Independent US

One of two British women accused of trying to smuggle £1.5m of cocaine out of Peru has said she will plead guilty after her lawyer came to a deal with prosecutors that included a reduced sentence.

Melissa Reid from Lenzie, near Glasgow and Michaella McCollum, from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland were stopped at Lima International Airport , trying to board a flight to Spain on August 6.

Customs officials found the drugs hidden in food packages in their luggage. The pair, both 20, claimed they had been forced at gunpoint to carry them.

On Friday, Miss Reid said her lawyer had stuck a plea bargain with prosecutors whereby she will plead guilty to drug trafficking in return for a sentence of six years and eight month sentence. Her family say they have been told that under the Peruvian legal system, she could be released in three years.

Crucially, prosecutors say they will drop the charge that she was being paid to carry the drugs, which would amount to a more serious crime.

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday from prison, Miss Reid said: "After a lot of thought and advice from my lawyer I am going to go in front of the judge and admit I was in possession of the drugs and that I went to Peru to pick up drugs to take to Spain - I am willing to plead guilty to that.

"I did it under duress, I still maintain that, and I am glad I do not have to say I accepted money to do it.

"I am aware that I will have a drugs conviction, which could cause me many problems, but I am trying not to focus on that."

She said she had reached the decision with her family in mind and an eye to getting home.

"Pleading guilty is going to enable me to get back to my family in Scotland sooner rather than later.

"I do not want to be in jail until 35 - I can't get back those years."

"I am really scared about what I am about to do but I am also relieved that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel.

"I'm now coming to terms with the fact I am so far away from my family. This is real."

Miss McCollum's lawyer reportedly suggested that her client will also plead guilty, saying: "It could happen".

Miss Reid and Miss McCollum had been working in bars in Ibiza when they claim they were forced to carry the cocaine by a British drug gang who held them at gunpoint and threatened their families.

Miss Reid said they had initially planned to plead innocence in the hope the drug gang would be caught, but said that strategy was now "too risky".

Speaking to the newspaper, she also described Miss McCollum as "like a sister" to her and said the paid "keep each other going".