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Saturday 19 April 2014

Michaella McCollum: I get to watch DVDs, dance and learn to cook in Peru jail

Michaella McCollum Connolly arrives at court at Sarita Colonia prison in Callao...Michaella McCollum Connolly, cuffed, arrives at court at Sarita Colonia prison in Callao December 17, 2013. McCollum Connolly, of Dungannon in Northern Ireland, and Melissa Reid (unseen), from near Glasgow in Scotland, charged in Peru with drug trafficking, are set to go on trial in Peru on Tuesday and could face up to 18 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said. The two women were arrested at Lima airport in August after 11 kg (24 lb) of cocaine worth 1.5 million pounds ($2.3 million) was found in their luggage, according to authorities.  REUTERS/Mariana Bazo (PERU - Tags: CRIME LAW DRUGS SOCIETY)...I
Michaella McCollum Connolly arrives at court at Sarita Colonia prison in Callao

Life behind bars in Peru for Michaella McCollum appears not to be as tough as the convicted cocaine smuggler has previously described.

In a series of hand-written letters to her family, the Dungannon woman has revealed how she has been able to watch DVDs, dance and is learning to cook in prison.

She also writes about how she enjoyed a meal of heart at Halloween.

The letter stands in stark contrast to how Michaella portrayed prison life in recent interviews, in which she complained about the food, the water, toilets, and language barrier in the overcrowded prison.

The normal prison diet is rice and beans, but her Co Tyrone family send over porridge and noodles, as well as books and magazines.

Although she is woken every day at 6am for a cold shower and cleaning duties, Michaella revealed in a letter to sister Samantha that she had 10 hours of free time every day.

In a note from her windowless cell in Virgen De Fatima jail to her sister, Michaella said: "We get to watch a DVD today and I get so happy and excited about that.

"Such small things now make me so happy.

"I now have a digital radio – a girl called Patty gave it to me. I haven't had my earphones off since, music makes me happy and is a sort of escape.

"Next week, there are lots of dance activities that we all have to take part in, which will be fun and a good way to pass the time."

Michaella and Glaswegian Melissa Reid were jailed in December for six years and eight months.

The two 20-year-olds had admitted to trying to smuggle £1.5m worth of cocaine into Peru.

In another letter home, published in Closer magazine, Michaella revealed how she celebrated Halloween.

"We had this huge event in the prison with a parade where we all prayed and there were priests and people carrying a big statue," she wrote.

"It lasted all day, then we had a feast and ate heart. That's their nice tradition. It was actually nice."

Michaella reassured her family back in Northern Ireland – who send her £100 a month for bottled water, shampoo and toilet paper – that she was coping well in the Peruvian prison.

"I'm doing really good now, any time I feel down or bad or have negative thoughts, I quickly move them to one side, allowing only good to pass," she wrote.

"I think I am as happy as I can be in this situation."

BACKGROUND

Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid pleaded guilty to drug smuggling in September. The pair had faced the prospect of a maximum 15-year prison term but struck a plea bargain to secure a shorter sentence.

They claimed that they were coerced by a gang of South American gangsters into travelling to Peru from Ibiza.

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