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Peru Two drug mule Michaella McCollum on being 'top dog' and earning £200 per week from inside South American jail

Michaella McCollum pictured during her first interview with the Irish broadcaster RTE. Credit: RTE

One of the drug smugglers dubbed the Peru Two has told how she became "top dog" in her block and earned £200 per week while inside a South American prison.

In an interview with the Daily Record following her return to Northern Ireland last week, Michaella McCollum told how she believes a blazing argument over drugs on a tourist bus led to her arrest, and how her jail stint has led to a string of admirers.

Along with Melissa Reid, the 23-year-old was arrested at Lima's international airport in 2013, trying to board a flight to Spain with 24lb of cocaine hidden inside porridge wrappers.

Michaella McCollum (left) and Melissa Reid in court in 2013. Credit: Reuters

The pair were both jailed for six years and eight months, but freed early under new legislation on early prison release introduced in Peru last year.

The charade saw the women pose as tourists, and in a bid to fool the authorities they visited the famous Inca ruins at Machu Picchu.

However, the knowledge of what they were doing led to them both "freaking out" and having a "blazing row" on the tourist bus.

Everyone on that bus must have known what we were doing. We were shouting about smuggling drugs.

– Michaella McCollum
Michaella McCollum arriving in court at Sarita Colonia prison in Callao in December, 2013. Credit: Reuters

Speaking of her three years inside Peruvian jails, the student from Dungannon, told how she went from "bullied white girl" to "top dog", winning her inmates over with beauty treatments which she charged them for, making £200 per week.

McCollum says she also paid one of the inmates to clean her cell, and told of a birthday party thrown for her by fellow inmates.

After 10 months inside Virgin de Fatima jail, McCollum was moved to the notorious Ancon 2 prison.

The food was crawling with maggots and the water was brown.

I slept on a simple concrete shelf and the cell was crammed with eight of us.

We had no toilet, just an overflowing hole in the floor. There was no toilet paper, no soap, no dignity.

– Michaella McCollum

Again, McCollum says she rose to the top of the prison's pecking order by using money sent to her by her family to open a beauty business, buying products, a massage table, hair straighteners, rollers and a hairdryer, and was again making £200 per week.

She also earned the loyalty of a Thai prisoner who she gave underwear from Marks & Spencer that her mother posted to her, she said.

£1.5m
The cocaine the pair attempted to smuggle had an estimated street value of £1.5 million.

McCollum claims she received more than 500 love letters and one admirer sent her eight kittens named after serial killers.

However, she says that the support of her fellow inmates earned her unwanted attention.

McCollum claims married prison psychologist Marco Peruvia fell for her, and when she rejected his marriage proposals, she says he sent letters to the court saying she was the head of a drug mafia in a bid to ensure she "would never see the light of day".

Other members of staff were nicer to her though, she claims, adding that she had a mobile phone while in prison - allegedly there was a 10-year sentence for possessing one - but paid a guard to turn a blind eye.

McCollum has returned to Northern Ireland where she now lives with her mother and nine older siblings, and says she speaks to co-accused Melissa Reid daily.