Thursday 23 November 2017

Peru trial: Michaela suffers setback

Michaella McCollum Connolly (right) and Melissa Reid in a holding cell during their hearing in Lima, Peru
Michaella McCollum Connolly (right) and Melissa Reid in a holding cell during their hearing in Lima, Peru
Court at Sarita Colonia del Callao men's prison for Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid's hearing
Michaella McCollum Connollyand Melissa Reid stand during their hearing
Melissa Reid stands in a holding cell during her hearing
Michaella McCollum Connolly, left, and Melissa Reid are escorted from a prison truck by police at Sarita Colonia prison in Lima, Peru
Michaella McCollum Connolly pictured following her arrest
Michaella McCollum-Connolly and Melissa Reid after being detained in Lima Airport
Michaella McCollum Connolly
Michaella McCollum Connolly
Michaella McCollum
Michaella McCollum Connolly
Michaella McCollum Connolly
Michaella McCollum Connolly
Michaella McCollum Connolly, left, and Melissa Reid are escorted from a prison truck by police at Sarita Colonia prison in Lima, Peru

Gerard Couzens

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 off 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 said that he will ask for a new hearing to give Michaella McCollum, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone and Melissa Reid of Glasgow the chance to offer a more complete confession.

Prosecutors said they would be submitting a formal request tomorrow to the court for the new statements to be taken – and insisted Melissa and Michaella could not benefit from a sentence reduction without their agreement.

Mr Rosas saithey need to explain why they initially 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 an eighth off the minimum eight-year prison sentence for drugs trafficking.

Juan Mendoza Abarca, the head of the anti-drug state prosecution unit which is prosecuting the women, said: “What the girls have said so far is not enough.

“We want to get to the men behind them and we want more information off them to do that.

“It's not enough to say you've killed someone and not say how or why. All these girls have said is, ‘We're guilty' and very little else.”

Melissa, from Lenzie near Edinburgh and Michaella, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, both 20, were arrested at Lima's Jorge Chavez airport on August 6 as they tried to fly to Spain with more than 11 kilos of cocaine in their suitcases.

They are being held on remand at Virgen de Fatima women's prison in Lima.

It is thought they are so far unaware of the latest setback to their case.

 

 

 

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