Peru drug mules Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid 'forced' to carry cocaine worth £1.5m

20-year-olds face a maximum of 15 years in prison

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The Independent US

Two women arrested on suspicion of attempting to smuggle £1.5m worth of cocaine out of Peru have given detailed accounts of how they were allegedly forced to carry the drugs.

The Mail on Sunday carried what it said were full statements that Michaella McCollum, from Northern Ireland, and Scot Melissa Reid, had given to the Peruvian authorities.

Ms McCollum, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and Ms Reid, from Glasgow, have been formally charged with the promotion of drug trafficking, and face a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted. It could be three years before they even face trial.

The 20-year-olds claim they were forced to carry the drugs by an armed gang who threatened them warned that if they did not cooperate their family members would be targeted.

Peruvian police have said they found around 11kg (24lb) of cocaine hidden inside food packages as the women attempted to board a flight from Lima, the Peruvian capital to Madrid.

In the statements they give accounts of how they were working in Ibiza and did not meet before they were both kidnapped at gunpoint and forced to travel to the Spanish island of Majorca.

They mention individuals allegedly involved in the plot called Jake, who had a London accent; Christian, from Liverpool; and three men named Hector, Enrique and Julio, a Peruvian.

They claim to have met for the first time in Majorca. Once arriving at the airport they say they were taken to an apartment where Ms Reid says they were "constantly threatened with guns".

The women's statements say that on 5 August in Lima they were given packages to carry.

Ms Reid said in her statement, "Back at the hotel, Michaella and me started to suspect we were being used to carry drugs back. Enrique called to give us instructions on how to pack the drugs inside our suitcases. He told us to wrap them with our clothes. I started to cry and told him I couldn't do it and he threatened us. He said his friends were constantly watching us and we would be killed if we didn't do exactly as he said."

Ms McCollum's statement read, "One bag had 16 packages, the other 18. They were wrapped in newspaper. While Enrique was speaking with us, we told him we did not want to go on with this. He told us we had to because his friends were waiting for us downstairs and they would be following us on our way to the airport."

Ms Reid said that in the end she felt relieved that the police found the drugs and took charge of everything.

The two women also spoke of their fear of getting caught on the day of their flight back to Spain.

The newspaper also publishes footage showing two women taking bags from a hotel and putting them into a taxi, while being minded by two men. The video was recorded on 6 August at around 6am, just hours before the pair were arrested at Lima airport.

It obtained the footage from a street camera run by Lima's neighbourhood watch service, and quotes a source for the city's prosecution team as saying, "This video could prove to be hugely important. We will examine it carefully and try to track the figures keeping an eye on the girls as they load up the taxi."