Drug mule Michaella may be freed much earlier after transfer
A CLOSE friend and confidant of Michaella McCollum Connolly believes the drug mule's sentence could be shortened dramatically once she returns to Ireland.
Fr Maurice Foley, who paid weekly visits to the Co Tyrone woman during her incarceration in the Peruvian prison Virgen de Fatima, has described the acceptance of her request for a transfer home to the North as "miraculous".
Fr Foley, who is currently in Ireland, said that based on previous cases he had seen, he thought that the 21-year-old "would be out in about nine months".
"I said to her shortly before I came away, that the way things are done in Peru is that the law has to be seen to be observed.
"And, when that is done in the courts, you start whittling away with the time.
"I told her that the best she could hope for would be to be out in two years," he told the Irish Independent after hearing that the cocaine smuggler will be allowed move to a jail in Northern Ireland.
Aspiring model Michaella and Scottish woman Melissa Reid (20) are now both expected to be repatriated by the end of the year.
They met on the party island Ibiza last summer and were arrested in Lima's Jorge Chavez Airport after they were found trying to smuggle €1.7m worth of cocaine in their luggage.
The pair, who had been dubbed the 'Peru Two', initially claimed they were forced to carry out the crime by a drugs gang who threatened them and their families.
However, they later pleaded guilty and were sentenced to six years and eight months in prison
Michaella's lawyer Kevin Winters said the process of getting her home could take months.
"One of the main issues will be the length of time that she is expected to serve," he said.
"We expect to receive a letter from the Department of Justice, and in that letter we anticipate receiving a positive response.
"This letter will not necessarily contain details of how long she will be serving, that issue will be the subject of further engagement with other agencies, including the prison authorities in Peru. And there are certain protocols attached to that, so that's something which will be visited upon in the coming weeks."
He said that it will not be "done and dusted until she is actually here".
It is expected that she will serve the remainder of her sentence in the Hydebank Woods Young Offenders Centre outside Belfast.
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders said the centre generally caters for up to 70 women, and is called 'Ash House'.
Prisoners there generally have their own room and are usually allowed to choose their meals from a menu.
Michaella served 10 months in Lima, before she was transferred to a mixed gender, remote maximum-security facility known as 'Ancon 2'.
Conditions there have been described as horrendous, and the toilet and sanitation facilities are reportedly very poor.
Ms McCollum was said to be "upbeat" when her sister informed her of the development.
Her family declined to comment last night.