Tuesday 21 January 2020

'I think it hit her that there was no getting out of it' - Michaella burst into tears as her mugshot was being taken

The previously unseen mugshot taken minutes after Michaella broke down in tears
The previously unseen mugshot taken minutes after Michaella broke down in tears
Drug mule McCollum with her new look in the RTE interview

Adam Cullen

The picture - which hasn't been made public before - shows an upset Michaella in police custody a day after she was caught trying to smuggle €1.8m of cocaine out of Peru.

Speaking yesterday, one of Peru's highest ranking police officials said it took the aspiring model some 24 hours before the reality of what she had done dawned on her.

Pointing to the image, the officer, who cannot be named, said both women were extremely calm and cool after their arrest at Lima Airport on August 6, 2013.

However, Michaella broke down crying 24 hours later as police officers took her official mugshot.


Revealing the shot, he said McCollum, who was 20 years old at the time, had been sobbing moments before the image was captured on August 7, 2013.

The picture shows a dishevelled looking McCollum with swollen red cheeks and puffed up eyes.

"All the time they were very calm," he said.

"Apart from in the queue at the airport. Our people there know what to look for, small things like body language and they were a bit nervous.

"But when the shot was taken in the drug unit prison, I think it hit her that there was no getting out of it."

Police uncovered 16 food packages in McCollum's bag containing 5.8kg of cocaine shortly after 8.10am on August 6, 2013.

In Glaswegian Melissa Reid's luggage, investigators found 5.7kg of the drug.

They were caught while trying to board an Air Europa flight with a final destination in Majorca, Spain, via Madrid.

One of the lead investigators with the country's elite anti-drugs unit said the pair first told police they had won their trip to Peru as part of competition.

"Their first story before they mentioned about being kidnapped was that they had been given a trip to Peru as a present," said the officer.

"They said they were tourists and that they had come to visit Machu Picchu.

"The chicas [girls] stated that they were bringing the food packages that were found in their suitcases back for someone who had helped with the trip and that they had no idea of the contents.

"At first, we believed them. They put on a convincing show; they were calm, but as time went on holes started showing in their accounts," he said.

"Next thing we had this account of the kidnap, which of course we knew to be false."

Photography student McCollum was freed from Ancon 2 prison in Lima at 5pm last Thursday.

Since then, she has been staying in an apartment in the Miraflores district - one of Lima's most affluent neighbourhoods - with family and friends.

Situated close to the beach and with a bevy of high-end stores and restaurants nearby, a standard apartment in the area usually rents for €1,900 per month.

Newly-blonde Michaella fled when questioned by the Herald earlier this week in Miraflores.

The pair fought charges against them for months, claiming a host of dubious stories.

However, they later accepted the charges and pleaded guilty before a court in the Peruvian capital of trying to smuggle 11.5kg of cocaine - worth €1.8m - out of the country.


They were sentenced to six years and eight months in prison, although they could have faced a sentence of 15 years.

Under new legislation which came into force in Peru in 2015, McCollum was let out on parole last week.

The only stipulation of her release is that she must sign a document at Lima courthouse once a month and remain in the country until she has completed two-thirds of her initial sentence.

"She is now free to do as she pleases," said a source.

"She should not be out on the streets. Our laws have become too lenient. This is an epidemic that is growing with Europeans at the moment.

"Demand for cocaine in Europe is at record levels and in Australia and Russia the price for a kilo is an average of €285,000. On mainland Europe and average of €70,000."

The source said that the majority of the drugs exported by mules from Peru are landing in Holland and Spain.

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