Decision day for Peru drug suspects

Decision day for Peru drug suspects

Michaella McCollum, left, and Melissa Reid stand behind their luggage after being detained at the airport in Lima, Peru (AP)

William Reid, father of Melissa Reid, arrives at the National Police anti-drug headquarters in Lima, Peru (AP)

First published in National News © by

Two women arrested on suspicion of trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5 million from Peru are expected to find out later if they are to be charged.

Michaella McCollum, 20, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, in Northern Ireland, and Melissa Reid, 20, from Glasgow, have spent the last two weeks in custody over drug trafficking allegations.

The pair were arrested while trying to board a flight from Lima to Madrid. Peruvian police said they found around 11 kilos (24lb) of cocaine hidden inside food packages.

Officers say they have concluded their initial investigation into the case with their findings forming the basis of a pre-trial hearing that will determine what the pair are to be charged with.

Detectives will present their case to the district attorney of Lima at a hearing later. If refused bail, the women face up to three years in jail before a trial. They both deny the allegations and claim they were forced to carry the bags by armed men.

But on Monday further questions about the two women's version of events were raised following the emergence of photographs that allegedly show them posing on a balcony and on a beach with glasses of beer days before they were arrested at Lima airport. The pair say they were told to take photos of themselves at tourist spots to make it look like they were friends travelling together, the Daily Mail said.

Ms Reid's father, William Reid, who has flown to Peru to be with his daughter, agreed the photos were ambiguous, but told the newspaper: "I want to know who took that picture of them on their balcony. Was it taken by a third person or by a minder, and who was drinking the beer?That wasn't Melissa's beer in the photo because I have never in my entire life seen her drink beer. She drinks a lot of water and, if she is drinking, it would be vodka."

He added: "I believe the trip to the beach was part of a set-up that they asked them to smile to build up a portrayal of them as happy holidaymakers. Melissa said they had been told by the men that they weren't smiling enough in the pictures and they told them to look happier. I can only go by what I have been firmly told by the girls. The two girls' stories are very tight, very consistent, with a lot of detail and they seem to be telling the truth, as far as I can gauge."

He added that Ms Reid had never shown an interest in going to Peru, and was already on her "dream holiday", saying: "To me, that suggests she was not there willingly."

Both women travelled separately to the party island of Ibiza in search of work this summer. Before news of the arrests broke, the family of Ms McCollum, a photography student and former nightclub hostess, had launched an internet campaign, fearing she was missing.

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