DRUG mules Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum Connolly have suffered a dramatic setback to their hopes of an early return home – as Peruvian prosecutors are objecting to their guilty pleas.
The pair had been expecting to be sentenced next Tuesday after pleading guilty to drug trafficking.
But the case took a dramatic twist last night after prosecutors said they wanted more information from the women about the drugs gang that sent them to Peru to pick up €1.7m of cocaine.
Instead of being sentenced next week, the women are now expected to be asked to make new statements in court.
Prosecutor Juan Rosas has said that he will ask for a new hearing to give McCollum Connolly, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone and Scottish woman Reid the chance to offer a more complete confession.
Prosecutors said they would be submitting a formal request to the court for the new statements to be taken – and insisted that the two women could not benefit from a sentence reduction without their agreement.
Mr Rosas said the young women needed to explain why they claimed they were coerced by a gang of armed men.
"The prosecution thinks the charges have not yet been completely embraced. They have simply accepted transporting drugs, but what has not yet been examined is their original version – that they were kidnapped or were transporting the drugs against their will," Mr Rosas said.
"As far as the prosecution is concerned, these citizens were never kidnapped, were never threatened or coerced.
"If they stick to that unbelievable story, the prosecution is not going to allow them the benefit of a guilty plea."
The pair decided to plead guilty on Tuesday after weeks of protesting their innocence so they could benefit from an early termination process under Peruvian law. This gives them one-eighth off the minimum eight-year prison sentence for drugs trafficking.
By Gerard Couzens