Peru 'drug mule' Michaella McCollum confident story of coercion will be proven after arrest over £1.5m cocaine

British women claim they were threatened at gunpoint and forced to smuggle drugs by criminal gang

A lawyer for one of the women suspected of being a drug mule currently detained in a Peruvian prison has said she is confident her claim that she was coerced into carrying the drugs will be proven.

Peter Madden, representing Michaella McCollum, 20, from Northern Ireland, said she and co-accused Melissa Reid, also 20, from Scotland, are scared and confused but will have to make the decision of whether to plead guilty or not guilty at the impending trial soon.

Both women are being held in a classification unit at the notorious Virgen de Fatima jail in Lima, which houses some of the country's most dangerous criminals after being found by Peruvian authorities with cocaine worth an estimated £1.5million concealed in food packages inside their suitcases.

Mr Madden, a renowned human rights solicitor from Belfast who has acted for high-profile republicans, has just returned from South America.

He said: "They are basically confident enough that what they have told the authorities will be eventually proved.

"The Peruvian system is still that they are innocent until proven guilty but in reality they have to try to prove that what they said happened to them did happen."

He added: "They are frightened. They are unsure of their future. They are in a prison in which they are the only two foreigners."

The lawyer said both women are being treated well by the authorities but acknowledged that conditions they faced inside the jail are harsh.

The women were stopped with 24lb (11kg) of cocaine while trying to board a flight to Spain earlier this month.

The two women were remanded in custody after appearing before a judge last week.

Mr Madden said that, under new laws soon to take effect in Peru, they could be released after two years if they plead guilty to the crime.

He added: "The position is that at some stage there will have to be a decision made by Michaella and Melissa as to whether or not, in our terms, they plead guilty, or plead not guilty and go to trial.

"That stage hasn't been reached yet."

Officials said they had confessed to investigators that they knew there were drugs in their bags but that they had been threatened at gunpoint and forced to smuggle the cocaine by a criminal gang.

Mr Madden told BBC Radio Ulster: "Anybody who is arrested and found in possession of drugs goes straight into prison. There is no bail. If they want to protest their innocence in a trial that may take up to or over two years, whereas if they accept their responsibility, as it is put, it could be over in six months.

"The law is changing so they could actually serve just over two years and be released.

"There is a new law going through the Peruvian Congress which states that any foreigner who has a sentence of less than seven years will get two-thirds remission and be removed from the country after a period of one third.

"This is a fairly complex decision but at some stage they will have to make that decision."

Additional reporting by Press Association

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin