Peru Two 'Could Be Home for Christmas' If They Give Up Gang
Byline: Gerard Couzens
DRUG mules Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid could be home by Christmas - if they help bring down the drugs gang that flew them to Peru.
The two women have been told they can leave prison in as little as two months if they agree to become secret witness collaborators and assist authorities to track down and jail the gang that officials still believe they are shielding.
The revelation comes hours before a crucial court hearing at which McCollum and Reid, both 20, will be asked for more information about their trip to Peru in August to pick up [euro]1.7million of cocaine destined for Europe.
The women pleaded guilty to drug smuggling last week, after weeks protesting their innocence, in the hope of being sentenced to less than seven years in prison tomorrow.
But their strategy appeared to fail when prosecutors got the sentencing hearing cancelled. Peruvian state prosecutors are demanding more information from the women before they agree to let them benefit from an early release process whereby drug mules automatically receive a sixth off the minimum eight-year sentence for drug trafficking.
Meanwhile, an Irish priest who has visited the girls in prison says McCollum is in 'brilliant health' in a modern, well-equipped prison.
Lima-based Fr Maurice Foley found the girls sitting in the yard, drinking coffee and making phonecalls.
'They are brilliant. Very, very well,' he told RTE Radio 1. 'They weren't in a cell. They were out in a wide open space, sitting at a table with a parasol. They were talking and drinking coffee.'
'They had telephone communication and they could use it for calling home. I thought they were in great form actually,' he added. McCollum, from Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, and Reid, from Lenzie near Edinburgh, still insist they were coerced into smuggling drugs by armed Colombian mafia who kidnapped them in Ibiza where they were doing summer jobs. …