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Girls made do 'perp walk' as they face 15 years in jail known as the devil's house

MICHAELLA McCollum could face up to 15 years in one of Peru's most hellish jails after being charged with attempting to smuggle cocaine.

The 20-year-old was jostled as she was taken from a holding cell in handcuffs on her way to court.

During chaotic scenes, Michaella and co-accused Melissa Reid (20) looked visibly upset by their ordeal.

They are expected to enter pleas of not guilty at a further court sitting this afternoon and may yet face other charges.

 

GRIM

According to Michaella's lawyer, Peter Madden, they went an entire day without food and are living in "grim conditions".

"They are expected to lie almost on the floor; there is sort of a sponge like bed," Mr Madden added.

"There are no blankets. It's not clean. I'm concerned about the holding conditions here. It's a temporary holding situation, it's very, very poor."

The two women who are accused of trying to smuggle 11kg of cocaine back to Spain face the prospect of spending three years in jail before their trial even begins.

The pair were yesterday marched on a 'perp walk', instead of being transferred in a police van, which is the norm in cases like this, in a show of strength by Peruvian anti-narcotics police.

 

AFTER A MEDICAL CHECK, THEY WERE TRANSFERRED TO CALLAO – A PORT CITY ABOUT AN HOUR AND A HALF WEST OF LIMA WHERE THEY HAVE REMAINED SINCE AWAITING TODAY'S LEGAL PROCEEDINGS.

 

THE GIRLS HAVE NOT YET ENTERED PLEAS – UNDER PERUVIAN LAWS THE STATE PROSECUTION LAWYER HAS 24 HOURS TO FORMULATE A FULL CHARGE AGAINST THE ACCUSED.

Mr Madden said both women would plead not guilty.

They both insist they were coerced at gunpoint to smuggle the drugs out of Peru.

It is hoped that the charges of attempting to carry cocaine worth €1.7m out of the country will be split between Michaella and Melissa.

They spent the night in holding cells at the courthouse awaiting a judge's decision about how to proceed with full charges.

However, the pair could be held in judicial custody for at least a year and a half before trial. There is no bail available under the strict narcotics laws in Peru.

In a statement, the district attorney's office in Callao said the pair could face a jail term of between eight and 15 years.

If convicted, they then face the prospect of being sent to the high security jail in a Peruvian desert known as Ancon 2.

A British female prisoner this week described the jail as the "devil's house".

Michaella's brother Keith and Melissa's father William were both prevented from entering the court building, according to Peter Madden.

He said that police are attempting to "break their spirits" so they would plead guilty.

Michaella from Tyrone and Melissa from Glasgow were "confused and frightened" and being held in "very poor and dirty conditions", Mr Madden added.

Meanwhile, a senior Spanish police officer said he did not believe they had been acting under duress.

 

FIRST SERGEANT ALBERTO ARIAN BARILLA, HEAD OF THE IBIZA POLICE UNIT RESPONSIBLE FOR COUNTERING ORGANISED CRIME, TOLD THE BBC: "IN MY EXPERIENCE, I DON'T THINK THESE TWO GIRLS WERE FORCED TO DO THIS BECAUSE – PARTICULARLY WHEN YOU GO TO SOUTH AMERICA – YOU NEED TO PASS SEVERAL CONTROLS.

"The first thing you do is go to the passport control and say 'listen, this is what is happening to me'. The policeman will react so I don't think they were forced."

hnews@herald.ie


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