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Michaella priest - 'she could be home in months'

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Michaella McCollum Connolly

Michaella McCollum Connolly

Michaella McCollum Connolly

drugs MULE Michaella McCollum could be home from Peru by mid 2015, a close friend and confident has said.

Michaella and co-accused Melissa Reid (20) are currently serving time in Lima after they were caught with €1.7m worth of cocaine in their luggage.

But authorities in Peru have accepted a formal request to transfer Michaella (21) to a prison in the north, one year to the day they were first caught.

The pair, who were dubbed the 'Peru Two', initially claimed innocence and that they were forced to carry the drugs by a gang who threatened them.

guilty

However, they later pleaded guilty and were sentenced to six years and eight months in prison.

Irish priest Fr Maurice Foley, who paid weekly visits to the Co Tyrone woman during her incarceration in the Peruvian prison Virgen de Fatima, said that based on previous cases, he thought that she could be "out in nine months".

"I said to her shortly before I came away that the law has to be observed in Peru," he said.

"And when that is done in the courts, you start whittling away with the time.

"I told her that the best she could hope for would be to be out after two years."

Irish-American Archbishop of Lima, Sean Walsh, who regularly visited the two girls, welcomed the news that she was to be returned to a prison in Northern Ireland.

"I am very happy to hear that. I know that she had made the application and I'm really pleased to hear the news.

"She is anxious to get back home," he said.

Archbishop Walsh said he had last visited the pair in prison on July 17 and "they were in good form".

"Michaela is a very nice girl. She is a girl who made a mistake," he said. "She is very popular with the inmates and very popular with the guards."

Archbishop Walsh said he planned to visit the girls again in a few week's time. He explained that their prison is a three-hour drive north of Lima.

He said he was not aware of yesterday's decision but would be emailing Michaela's mother Norah now that he had heard.

Kevin Winters, the lawyer representing the drug trafficker, urged caution and said that the process could take many months.

"One of the main issues will be the length of time that she is expected to serve," he added.

"We expect to receive a letter from the Department of Justice, and in that letter we anticipate receiving a positive response.

Authorities

"This letter will not necessarily contain details of how long she will be serving, that issue will be the subject of further engagement with other agencies, including the prison authorities in Peru.

"It's not over and done and dusted until she is actually here, and that hasn't happened yet. You are talking more in terms of months," Mr Winters added.

It is unknown how the cost of the repatriation will be funded, but it's expected that she'll serve the remainder of her sentence in Hydebank Woods Young Offenders Centre, near Belfast.

hnews@herald.ie


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