Peru drugs accused Michaella McCollum kidnapped: solicitor

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid were arrested at Lima Airport on 6 August

A solicitor for a Northern Irish woman accused of cocaine smuggling in Peru has said she was "kidnapped" and forced to carry the drugs under threat.

Michaella McCollum, from Dungannon and Melissa Reid, from Lenzie near Glasgow, both 20, are accused of trying to smuggle £1.5m worth of cocaine.

They were stopped on 6 August when they tried to board a flight from Lima airport to Madrid.

Solicitor Peter Madden visited Ms McCollum on Friday.

"She was in fact kidnapped, held at gunpoint and forced by threat to obtain and carry drugs back to Lima," Mr Madden said.

"She wasn't offered any money, she was threatened and held. She is now prepared and ready to give full details to the police who are in a questioning process."

He said the two women were likely to appear in court next week.

Image caption,
Solicitor Peter Madden visited Ms McCollum in custody

"Once that questioning process is over, the questions and answers go to a judge, who will then decide whether there's a prima facie case and that'll probably be next week, possibly Tuesday or Wednesday," he said.

"Melissa is already in the process of being questioned during this procedure and that's wrapping up now, then Michaella will be questioned in the same process.

"I think there is a hope, but it depends very much on the prosecuting authorities here as to whether or not they're going to do this in a fair way, because the process here seems to be that once you're charged there's no bail for these type of offences and she will have to go to trial."

Ms McCollum's brother Keith also visited her on Friday.

Doubt cast on claims

The two women have previously claimed they were forced into carrying the drugs by a gang in Ibiza.

However, in an interview with the BBC, the head of Ibiza's police investigation into the drug trafficking claims cast doubt on claims they were coerced into trying to smuggle the drugs.

First Sergeant Alberto Arean Varela, head of the anti-drug and organised crime police unit at the Guardia Civil in Ibiza, said the claims ran counter to his knowledge of trafficking cases.

"Sincerely, with my experience, I don't think these girls were forced to do this," he said.

"Because, particularly when you go to South America, you need to pass several consuls so the first thing you [would] do is go to the passport consul and say 'Listen, this is what is happening to me', and the police will react - so I don't think they were forced."

The pair could face lengthy prison sentences if found guilty of drug smuggling.

Media caption,
The BBC's Tom Bateman visits Ibiza and explores the island's association with drugs

Ms Reid and Ms McCollum had been working at bars in San Antonio, the main resort for thousands of young British tourists every summer, when they said they were befriended by a man from London.

They claimed they were then forced at gunpoint to make the journey to Peru, shadowed by gang members along the way.

Police said they found more than 24lb (11kg) of cocaine in food packaging in the women's luggage.

The women have previously said they were unable to go to the authorities because the gang had threatened to kill their families if they did not co-operate.

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