independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Michaella's fund falls far short of €12,000 target

Irish-born Michaella McCollum, handcuffed, arrives for a court hearing, in Lima, Peru, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013. McCollum along with Melissa Reid, of Britain, were detained on Aug. 6 at Lima's airport for allegedly trying to smuggle cocaine on a flight to Spain and were formally charged for drug trafficking. (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)
Irish-born Michaella McCollum, handcuffed, arrives for a court hearing, in Lima, Peru, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013. McCollum along with Melissa Reid, of Britain, were detained on Aug. 6 at Lima's airport for allegedly trying to smuggle cocaine on a flight to Spain and were formally charged for drug trafficking. (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)

THERE is just €4,546 in the fund set up to provide financial aid to the family of Michaella McCollum Connolly as she prepares to spend more than six years in a Peruvian jail.

The online fundraising appeal for the jailed Tyrone 20-year-old has a target of almost €12,000. But the figure has fallen far short and weeks can pass without donations being made.

The youcaring.com webpage for Michaella's legal costs and sustainability came about after she admitted a charge of drug-trafficking in Peru alongside her Scottish co-accused Melissa Reid (20).

The original €23,500 target of the fundraising efforts, set up by Michaella's sister Stephanie in mid-August, has since been lowered after just €600 was received in public donations in the first 10 days after the appeal was launched.

Former Irish honorary consul in Lima, Michael Russell, said cash was key to surviving in Peru's tough jails, which he described as "pretty dour and horrible". "It's all a matter of money, quite frankly," he added.

"You have to buy your space, you have to buy your food. If you don't have money you suffer quite a lot."

Michaella and Melissa were last week sentenced to six years and eight months in prison for drug offences in Peru.

McCollum, from Dungannon, and Reid, from Glasgow, were arrested in August after 11.5kg of cocaine was found in their baggage. The pair initially claimed they were forced to attempt to board a flight from Lima to Spain with cocaine hidden in food packets inside their luggage. But they pleaded guilty in the hope of a reduced sentence.

Time will be deducted from the sentence as they have been in custody since their arrest.

The women will serve at least two years in prison in Peru before being considered for parole or possibly extradition.

Irish Independent

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