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Saturday 30 August 2014

Interpol squad grill Michaella in Peru

Published 17/08/2013 | 15:34

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Michaella McCollum
Michaella McCollum
Michaela McCollum Connolly with her brother Keith McCollum in a photograph posted on his Facebook page.
Michaela McCollum Connolly with her brother Keith McCollum in a photograph posted on his Facebook page.
Michaella McCollum Connolly
Michaella McCollum Connolly

SUSPECTED Irish drugs mule Michaella McCollum Connolly was quizzed by anti-narcotics officers until 3:30am Saturday morning as her lawyer has travelled from Belfast to aid in her defence.

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The Irishwoman's brother and Belfast lawyer Peter Madden have both arrived in Peru. Prior to their arrival, the 20-year-old model was facing tough questions from the world's largest international police organisation, Interpol.

It is understood that Interpol officials spent several hours with the Tyrone native and Scottish woman Melissa Reid. Later, Ms McCollum Connolly enjoyed an emotional reunion with her brother, Keith.

He travelled to the maximum security Dirandro police station with Belfast lawyer Peter Madden. The pair arrived about 11am local time and spent several hours meeting with her to organise her defence.

A mother and son local lawyer team - Fischmann and Fischmann - will represent Michaella as she faces drug charges.

She will face a judge by next Wednesday at the latest on charges of trying to leave Peru with almost €2m worth of cocaine.

An official state interpreter has been appointed which means that the case can progress to the next level.

A source close to the family told the Herald that they plan on meeting a number of lawyers immediately.

"Their priority at this point is to get the best defence possible for Michaella," they said.

"At the moment, the main focus is to prepare for the next week."

Belfast lawyer Peter madden also met Michaella yesterday to establish her version of events. Irish Archbishop of Lima Sean Walsh accompanied him and Keith McCollum to the prison.

The girls have claimed that they were kidnapped, held at gunpoint and forced to bring more than 10kg of drugs through Lima airport.

Melissa Reid, who celebrated her 20th birthday behind bars, will face a judge in court in Callao, a province near to Lima, on Monday.

Her father, William, arrived also in Peru yesterday and managed to spend about 15 minutes with her at the prison.

A police officer involved in the case said that the women were upset but were being treated well by prison staff.

He said the maximum sentence for drugs couriering in a case like this is eight years, but the girls could see that reduced significantly if they cooperated with police.

The court in Callao is one of the busiest - it is a port city as well as the location of Jorge Chavez Airport, and so drugs smuggling cases are proportionately higher.

If found guilty, the girls will be sent to Santa Monica jail, one of the most notorious prisons in South America.

There is also a possibility that the girls will be tried under strict laws for anti-narcotics cases, similar to anti-terrorism cases.

Lawyer Peter Madden, a former colleague of murdered human rights solicitor Pat Finucane, has previously represented the so-called Colombia Three.

He travelled to Colombia to advise Jim Monaghan, Martin McAuley and Niall Connolly, who were accused of training FARC rebels.

They were later acquitted and were freed and returned to live in Ireland in 2005.

He has said that he expects to spend at least a week in Lima.

Claire Murphy in Lima

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