Peru drug suspects face 18 years

Peruvian prosecutors have warned that a British and an Irish woman charged with trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5 million out of the country could face up to 18 years in jail if they are convicted.

Latest ITV News reports

Peru duo 'not typical smugglers'

John Collins, an expert in international drug control from the think tank LSE Ideas says neither Michaella McCollum Connolly nor Melissa Reid fit the typical profile for drugs smugglers.

Instead, he says, drug mules are more likely to be people from poorer backgrounds who the smugglers "can afford to have drop off the map."

Typically, he says, smugglers have "poor access to social services, they get caught up in the drugs trade and get exploited by people within the cartels."

Drug smuggler: 'Ibiza like a hunting ground'

A drug smuggler who spent eight years in jail in South America said the party island of Ibiza was "like a hunting ground for smugglers."

Paul Keany, who was sent to prison in Venezuela for attempting to smuggle cocaine out of the country, said the girls will be shocked by the tough conditions.

Watch: Brits in prison in Peru describe terrible conditions

Speaking to ITV News he also said it was possible that the two women were used as a decoy for a larger drugs shipment.

Read: Archbishop of Lima says women were 'set up'

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Peru drug suspects' parents plan on flying to Lima

The parents of two women arrested in Peru on suspicion of drug smuggling are planning on travelling to Lima to see their daughters.

Michaella McCollum Connolly (left) and Melissa Reid. Credit: Police Handout

Michaella McCollum Connolly, 20, from Northern Ireland, and Melissa Reid, 19, from Scotland, claim they were ordered at gunpoint by Colombian gangsters to smuggle an estimated £1.5 worth of cocaine out of the South American country.

Mr and Mrs Reid told the Daily Mail they were preparing to fly out to Peru to see their daughter, who turns 20 on Friday, and the newspaper claims Ms McCollum Connolly's parents are also making travel arrangements.

William Reid, 53, told the paper: "From what her friends and Melissa have been able to tell us, she was introduced to a group of men who she socialised with and this escalated to her being forced to carry out this journey.

"They came into her flat and told her to pack a bag. She didn't know where she was going. My daughter would 100% not have gone willingly. This is completely out of character. She was coerced into it."

Peru pair due in court on Monday or Tuesday

The British women accused of drug smuggling are due in court on Monday or Tuesday.

Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid are accused of smuggling 11kg of cocaine disguised as food parcels out of South America.

The pair claim they were "threatened at gunpoint" and feared for their lives and those of their families - an allegation police said was an active line of inquiry.

The police chief in charge of the case said it is not unheard of for people to be forced to carry drugs after such threats are made.

ITV News Correspondent Nick Ravenscroft reports:

Read: Peru drugs suspects face up to eight years in prison

Peru drugs suspects face up to eight years in prison

by - Brazil Correspondent

Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum could face up to eight years in jail if they are found guilty of drugs smuggling.

A police chief in Peru said the term could be reduced to two years depending on the charge if "they confess".

The pair have said they had no choice but to carry the cocaine, fearing for their own lives and those of their families after being threatened at gunpoint.

Michaella McCollum Connolly (left) and Melissa Reid Credit: Peruvian police

The police chief said the case is likely to be decided in one to one-and-a-half months and revealed it is not unheard of for people to be forced to carry drugs after such threats are made.

He said his officers are investigating the claims.

The women's first court appearance is likely to be Monday or Tuesday.

Read: Peru drugs suspect: 'We were given no option'

Drug accused 'robbed of passports and mobile phones'

Melissa Reid, one of two women caught with £1.5 million worth of cocaine in Peru has said they were robbed of their passports and mobile phones and followed by members of a violent drugs cartel on board flights from Spain.

They took all power away from us and controlled us to the point where we would have done anything to make sure we didn’t die.

We never knew until we saw the drugs what it was we were expected to take back. We had thought it was either money, guns or drugs but they never told us until the night before we flew back to Lima.

We were held up in a dingy room and they placed the drugs in front of us. The men, all South American, told us to wrap the drugs up tightly in clothes to avoid being detected.

We were both incredibly frightened and so at that point they threatened us again with our lives to make sure we went through with it.

– Melissa Reid, speaking to the Daily Mirror

Read: Peru drug accused 'were smuggling for our lives'

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Peru drugs suspect: 'We were given no option'

Melissa Reid Credit: Facebook

One of the two women arrested in Peru on suspicion of smuggling £1.5 million-worth of cocaine has said they had guns held to their heads and were told to smuggle the drugs or die.

In an interview with the Daily Mirror, 19-year-old Melissa Reid said: "We were not smuggling for money, we were smuggling for our lives.

"We have no doubt they would have killed us both without hesitation if we didn't do as we were told.

"Ever since I was arrested I have played out what has happened in my mind over and over again asking myself how could we have gotten out of it. But each time I think it wasn't even an option.

Peru drugs suspect: 'We were smuggling for our lives'

Michaella McCollum Connolly (left) and Melissa Reid Credit: Peruvian police

One of the women arrested in Peru on suspicion of smuggling £1.5 million-worth of cocaine has spoken to the Daily Mirror from inside their jail, claiming they were threatened at gunpoint by gangsters.

19-year-old Melissa Reid, from Scotland, told the paper: "We had no option. We were not smuggling for money, we were smuggling for our lives.”

Read more: Women held in Peru 'claim they were threatened at gunpoint'

Women 'to claim they were coerced' into drug smuggle

The Archbishop of Lima Sean Walsh, who yesterday met the British and Irish women accused of drug smuggling in Peru, told ITV News he believed the pair's defence would be that "they were coerced into doing this, instead of doing it wilfully".

He said Melissa Reid, 19, and Michaella McCollum Connolly, 20, who are accused of smuggling cocaine worth an estimated £1.5 million, were "being well-treated".

The Irish-American Archbishop said the women were "a little weepy" when they prayed together.

Read: Mother of drug accused says the 'situation is terrible'

Read: 'Living nightmare' for father of woman held in Peru

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