Sunday 25 September 2016

Michaella McCollum: “I was partying for days... I wasn’t sober leaving on that plane... I wasn’t sober leaving the apartment”

Michaella McCollum Connolly in first interview after prison release: 'I made a decision in a moment of madness... I'm not a bad person'

Jane O'Faherty, Geraldine Gittens and Sasha Brady

Published 02/04/2016 | 23:36

Irish drugs mule Michaella McCollum has admitted in her first interview since her release from prison in Peru that she wasn't sober when she agreed to fly out of Ibiza.

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In an interview on RTE tonight, Michaella admits her decision to take part in smuggling 11kgs of cocaine was a “moment of madness”.

Michaella McCollum Connolly during an interview with RTE
Michaella McCollum Connolly during an interview with RTE

Ms McCollum was arrested two-and-a-half years ago for possession of almost €2m worth of smuggled cocaine.

She and Scottish national Melissa Reid were arrested at Lima airport with the cocaine hidden in their luggage.

Sporting a new blonde hairstyle during the RTE interview, Ms McCollum expressed regret at her actions, saying: “I made a decision in a moment of madness….I’m not a bad person.. I want to demonstrate that I’m a good person.

“I potentially could have hurt a lot of people. I potentially could have filled Europe full of a lot of drugs,” she said.

Michaella McCollum Connolly during an interview with RTE
Michaella McCollum Connolly during an interview with RTE

“If the drugs had of got back [to Europe] what could have happened, I probably would have had a lot of blood on my hands.

“I potentially could have filled Europe full of a lot of drugs," she says in the interview produced by the RTE Factual team.

“I could have potentially killed a lot of people, not directly but I could have caused a lot of harm to people.”

Michaella said she had been partying for days before she left Ibiza and she vaguely remembers boarding the flight for Mallorca.  In Mallorca, she met Melissa Reid and a Peruvian man. She spent her time there sleeping because she hadn't slept for days, she said.

“I was partying for days... I wasn’t sober leaving on that plane... I wasn’t sober leaving the apartment.”

“Once I landed in Peru, I kind of had that feeling that I was going to get caught and I was questioning life, questioning everything.”

"It wasn't actually only until the night before we left that we knew that we were taking back cocaine."

"I felt sick, sick with nerves, sick with worry, and I remember after I went back to my room, I remember asking 'should I do this?'."

The convicted drug smuggler described the moment she knew she had been caught red handed, when the airport police opened her bag and saw the packages of cocaine. She was taken into a room and strip searched and handcuffed to a chair.

“It was as clear as day what was there… I started panicking, I didn't know what to say, what could you say? … I had no idea about the Peruvian justice system, how bad and how many years you get for a drugs sentence. I had no idea what I was getting into.”

“I was so scared. I just wanted to curl up into a ball and die… It didn’t feel real.”

Michaella said the hardest task was telling her mother that she was in Peru in prison.

“I’m only 20…Thinking about how I could be here for 15 years”

“To have to break that news was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.”

"The guilt…it’s something I have to live with for the rest of my life …of course that was never my intention to let that happen…and when I think about it I try not to think about it because it makes me hate myself to be capable of causing that much pain and suffering to the people that I love."

She said to her family: “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for making you suffer because that was never my intention and I hope they can forgive me.”

Michaella initially withheld the truth about her visit to Lima, upon her arrest and lied about being kidnapped at gunpoint by drug lords who threatened her family.

“I was scared to take responsibility because I didn’t know what would happen then," she said tonight. “It can easily happen to anybody who’s been on vacation and has been misled."

Michaella said she's spent a lot of time in prison over the last three years reflecting on what she's done.

“I thought I’m just picking up something and bringing it back, I never thought of the contents and what’s inside and what it could do to people

“I was very naïve, I was so young very insecure, a lot of times I didn’t know how to say no to someone." 

Michaella said she plans to demonstrate to everyone she has disappointed that she has changed and matured.

"I'm totally grateful for my mother... and everything that she has done for me."

"I'm not a bad person. I want to demonstrate that I'm a good person... Myself and my family, we're not the same as we used to be. We're a lot more close-knitted," Michaella said.

Michaella, who plans to study psychology, says she wants to go home to Ireland and help young people who are in difficulty.

She said she plans to "be a help to young people to prevent them from committing this kind of crime… there are young people that after a bad decision you can turn your life around.”

RTE has said it did not pay Irish drugs mule Michaella McCollum for the interview.

A spokesperson for RTE told independent.ie today "Michaella McCollum was not paid by RTE for the interview".

The spokesperson added: "Any other staffing/production costs would be commercially sensitive and not for disclosure."

The 23-year-old was holidaying in Ibiza in 2013 when she disappeared before turning up a week and a half later in Lima airport where she was arrested. Having been originally imprisoned for six years and eight months, Michaella’s solicitors have secured her release after less than three years. She said: “I’ve forgotten the things that everybody takes for granted in life.

“Seeing the sun, seeing the darkness, seeing the moon and the stars, things I haven’t seen in almost three years.”

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