Thursday 21 September 2017

In pictures: Michaella McCollum Connolly behind bars

Michaella McCollum Connolly (right) and Melissa Reid in a holding cell during their hearing in Lima, Peru
Michaella McCollum Connolly (right) and Melissa Reid in a holding cell during their hearing in Lima, Peru
Court at Sarita Colonia del Callao men's prison for Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid's hearing
Michaella McCollum Connollyand Melissa Reid stand during their hearing
Melissa Reid stands in a holding cell during her hearing
Michaella McCollum Connolly, left, and Melissa Reid are escorted from a prison truck by police at Sarita Colonia prison in Lima, Peru
Michaella McCollum Connolly, left, and Melissa Reid are escorted from a prison truck by police at Sarita Colonia prison in Lima, Peru
Michaella McCollum Connolly pictured following her arrest
Michaella McCollum-Connolly and Melissa Reid after being detained in Lima Airport
Michaella McCollum Connolly
Michaella McCollum Connolly
Michaella McCollum
Michaella McCollum Connolly

This is Irishwoman Michaella McCollum Connolly and her co-accused Melissa Reid behind bars shortly before they pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggle €1.7m worth of cocaine.

The pair were pictured behind bars as they awaited their court appearance in Peru yesterday evening.

The images were issued by the Peruvian authorities late last night.

Michaella McCollum Connolly (20), from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and Scottish woman Melissa Reid (20), from Glasgow, were pictured sitting together in a cell in the courthouse before making their appearance before a judge.

This is the first time pictures of the pair in formal custody have emerged.

The pair pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggle up to €1.7m worth of cocaine from the Peruvian capital of Lima to Spain.

They admitted in court they tried to board a flight with more than 11kg of the drug in their suitcases. Their court confession on the drug trafficking charges comes after they spent more than six weeks protesting their innocence.

They claimed they were forced into becoming drug mules by Colombian mafia who kidnapped them at gunpoint.

The U-turn makes it is likely both accused will be automatically sentenced to six years and eight months in jail, with sentencing expected to take place as early as next week.

A spokesman for the court in Callao said: "They will automatically have a sixth off from the minimum jail sentence of eight years and will be sentenced to six years and eight months in prison.

"Sentencing will take place on October 1 at a new hearing."

McCollum Connolly, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and Reid, from Lenzie, near Glasgow, admitted their guilt at a private hearing at a makeshift prison courtroom.

The hearing was closed to the press and the public.

The pair told judge Pedro Miguel Puente Bardales they assumed "full responsibility" for their actions, the court said in a news release issued late last night.

The women's lawyer Meyer Fishman declined to comment afterwards.

But a spokesman for the court confirmed that both the accused, who are both 20, entered guilty pleas.

"It means they automatically benefit from a sixth off the minimum sentence of eight years and will be sentenced to six years and eight months in jail," the spokesman added.

Reid's parents – energy company manager Billy (54) and National Grid administrator Debra (53) – insisted last week they still believed their daughter had been coerced.

But they said a guilty plea was the best course of action for both women, who travelled to Peru from Ibiza where they had been working over the summer.

The pair faced up to 15 years in jail if convicted of drugs smuggling after a trial.

Reid, speaking from her jail cell, said: "After a lot of thought and advice from my lawyer, I'm going to admit I was in possession of the drugs and that I went to Peru to pick up drugs to take to Spain.

"Pleading guilty is going to get me back to my family sooner rather than later. I don't want to be in jail until I'm 35."

McCollum Connolly also confirmed at the weekend she also had a change of heart.

The women were arrested on August 6 as they tried to board an Air Europa flight from Lima to Madrid.

It had been hinted at the weekend that the women could expect smaller jail sentences if they co-operated as witnesses against the criminal gang they blame for coercing them.

But prosecutors appeared to crush their hopes of an early release by insisting a new law enacted two weeks after the women's arrest eliminated early parole for good behaviour of people convicted of drug trafficking.

The pair were expected to apply for permission to serve some of their sentence in the UK or Ireland.

By Gerard Couzens

Online Editors

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