Belfast drug mule granny Lillian Allen bribes her way out of Peru
Mum of three paid off corrupt police before boarding flight home to UK
Published 13/04/2015 | 09:51
A Belfast woman who was freed after three years in a South American prison has told how she fled the country in fear of her life.
Drugs mule Lillian Allen - jailed for smuggling 10kg of cocaine in Peru in 2011 - described how she bribed her way through airport security - despite serving only half her sentence.
The 49-year-old grandmother, who was locked up alongside Dungannon drugs mule Michaella McCollum in Lima's Ancon prison, was banned from leaving the South American state until 2018.
But in her first interview since skipping the country last month, the Shankill Road woman told how she believed that she had to escape or be killed.
And speaking from her home in England, the mother of three vowed never to return to the country she described as a "living nightmare".
In an exclusive interview the fugitive gran revealed how she:
l Set up her escape from inside her hellish prison cell.
l Feared she would be murdered after being attacked FOUR times after her release.
l Handed over hundreds of dollars to corrupt cops who smuggled her out of the country.
l Was forced to pay-off airport police TWICE after missing her first flight home at Christmas.
l Narrowly missed being arrested at one of the UK's top airports.
Lillian also revealed how despite only being half-way into a six-year sentence, she breezed through FOUR major airports - because her details were not registered with Interpol.
Lillian told Sunday Life: "When I got on that plane in Lima I just wanted the doors to close and for it to take off - and it did.
"The next day I caught a flight to London and when it touched down in Heathrow all I could think was, 'I'm going to see my kids'."
She went on: "Lima is your worst nightmare. Just imagine the worst dream you have ever had, that is what it is like living there.
"You have to escape. It's your only way out."
She said she unwittingly became a drugs mule after being befriended by a man whilst on holiday in the Peruvian capital.
Describing how she first set up her escape while serving time inside Lima's Ancon II prison, the drugs mule said: "I was passed this Peruvian woman's phone number inside prison, we were told that she could help us get home when we got out on parole."
In September, the Belfast woman was released on licence by a Peruvian judge. He told her she could serve the rest of her sentence
outside the prison, but must sign with two different police stations every month and attend rehabilitation classes.
If she failed to do either, she would be taken back to prison until her sentence was complete - in 2018.
Two days later, she walked outside the gates of Ancon II.
She said: "I phoned the number straight away and she said she'd put me in touch with another man.
"We met up, he said, 'Yes I can help you', and gave me a price which was $300 for airport police to pass me through customs.
"I was scared going through with it, but they assured me there would be no problem."
Within three months the ex-prisoner, who had been staying with a Peruvian friend, gathered up enough cash for her escape.
But disaster struck when she missed her flight.
"It was Christmas night, I was outside the airport and within 10 minutes the flight was gone. I was devastated, but then they (airport police) said they would still help."
Struggling and broke, she managed to gather up more cash.
"This time I had to pay $700 for the flight and $600 to the airport police to pass me through," she said.
For another three months she saved, only leaving the run-down chalet where she lived to sign in with police.
Then last month she was summoned to a cafe outside the very airport where she had been arrested just three years before.
"I was frightened - really frightened," she said.
"I went there with my lawyer. He took photos of me and walked over to two men sat on a wall outside.
"He came back and told me to look over at the two men and memorise their faces. I looked around and there were two men sitting on the wall of the cafe, staring at me."
Lillian added: "Afterwards I went back to my friend Clementina's house, where I'd been staying.
"She was working and wasn't there, and then I got a phone call from the airport police. They told me to come in at 2.30pm and come straight to desk 30. I said, 'OK'."
After grabbing her belongings, she left a note for her friend, who Lillian says didn't have a clue about her escape.
The Belfast woman also left a note for police, to explain that she had fled the country.
She then travelled to Jorge Chavez International Airport.
"I put my bag in, checked in and went upstairs. And as I came around the corner to customs I could see one of the policemen at desk 30.
"So I just walked up and handed him my passport. He took a piece of paper, wrote something on it, and stamped it.
"He gave me back my passport and said, 'Go'."
Lillian went on: "The flight to Colombia wasn't until 4pm, so I was a bit nervous waiting for that long.
"Then they called out seat numbers one to 30, and nobody got up apart from me.
"I was seat number 27, and when I was walking to give the man my boarding pass, I just kept on praying 'Rip it, rip it in half'.
"And when he ripped it I just felt this relief. When I got in that plane I just wanted the doors to close and take off, and it did."
She added: "I flew from Lima to Colombia, from Colombia to London, from London to Birmingham.
"Only in Lima was I very frightened, once I boarded that plane I was fine.
"But when I was coming through customs in London, the security guy was looking through the passport for a stamp.
"He said to me, 'Where are you coming from?'
"I told him, 'I'm coming from Lima, to Colombia, Colombia to here and I'm going to Birmingham but I have to hurry up or else I am going to miss my flight.'
"And he apologised and gave me back my passport."
Describing the moment she saw her grown-up sons and grandchildren for the first time in years, she said: "The boys were really happy, the grandkids were great - I thought they would be a wee bit funny with me because I hadn't seen them in so long, but they were great.
"They were straight in saying, 'Nanny, nanny, nanny'. It was so good."
Asked if she feared being extradited back to the country to serve the rest of her sentence, she said: "I don't think the British police will bother.
"I know I have a record, I done wrong. But I did not do anything wrong in this country. I did it in Lima."
She went on: "I won't be coming back to Belfast, maybe for a holiday, but I want to start a new life for myself here.
"I'm looking for a wee flat at the moment - a two-bedroomed one will do me just fine."
"I just want to start afresh and put that nightmare behind me," she added.