independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Michaella family: We will not be celebrating Christmas

Family say she is coping ‘well’ in Peru prison

Michaella McCollum
Michaella McCollum

THE family of jailed drugs mule Michaella McCollum has said that Christmas was not “on the cards” for them this year as their “baby” faces the festive season in a Peruvian prison.

Mother-of-10 Norah McCollum from Dungannon gave her first media interview since her youngest child was sentenced to nearly seven years in jail after attempting to smuggle £1.5m of cocaine out of Peru.

She said they would be blanking celebrations, while her other daughter Samantha addeded: “We will not be celebrating Christmas this year”.

Michaella along with Scot Melissa Reid (20), were given the minimum sentence in return for a guilty plea at a Lima court.

Mrs McCollum described her daughter as an “honest, hard-working girl” and she was “optimistic” after hearing the length of sentence.

The mother and sister also confirmed that they hoped to visit Michaella as soon as possible.

“Michaella rings me every day, sometimes twice a day. She tells me what’s happened during the day and I tell her what’s been happening at home.”

The McCollum family also vowed to mount a legal bid to get her back to the UK to serve her sentence of six years and eight months in a Northern Ireland jail.

“We will be getting the legal team to try and sort all that out,” said Mrs McCollum.

During a television interview with ITV’s ‘Daybreak’ yesterday, Samantha McCollum protested Michaella’s innocence and said: “In our opinion Michaella is innocent, in our opinion she will always be innocent.”

“Michaella has never been in trouble before so this is a very big shock to us,and we will all support her.”

Samantha also said she was coping “really, really well” inside prison.

“Her faith has kept her going, she is very positive and optimistic, knowing this is going to bring her out very strong,” she said.

McCollum, along with co-accused Melissa Reid, from Lenzie near Glasgow, pleaded guilty to drug smuggling in September.

The pair had faced the prospect of a maximum 15-year prison term but struck a behind-closed-doors plea bargain to secure a shorter sentence.

They had both been working in Ibiza over last summer when they claimed that they were first befriended by an Englishman and then coerced by a gang of South American gangsters into travelling to Peru. They insisted that they were forced into carrying the drugs.

Meanwhile, the best selling author of the self-help book that McCollum was clutching ahead of the court hearing has said that she has been touched by the young Northern Ireland woman’s plight.

Californian Barbara De Angelis spoke of “wanting to reach out to Michaella and her family”.

Her book, ‘Secrets About Life Every Woman Should Know: Ten Principles for Spiritual and Emotional Fulfilment’, is being read by the former part-time model and dancer.

“To see the way that young woman was clutching on to my book really touched my heart,” said Ms De Angelis.

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