- Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum were detained in August in Lima
- Arrested on suspicion of trying to smuggle cocaine on a flight to Spain
- Some 24lbs of cocaine worth £1.5m was allegedly found in their luggage
- The two women from Scotland and Northern Ireland were jailed in Peru
- Today they started their sentence in the notorious Santa Monica jail
- HIV and tuberculosis are rife in the filthy and overcrowded prison
The ‘Peru Two’ today began their six-year stretch behind bars at a Peruvian jail notorious for its unsantinary conditions and over-crowding.
Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum Connolly were yesterday sentenced to six years and eight months in jail for attempting to smuggle £1.5million worth of cocaine out of Peru.
Following their sentencing, the pair were taken from court to the Santa Monica prison in Chorrillo.
Pictures from inside the jail show the tough conditions McCollum Connolly, 20, from Dungannon, Northern Ireland, and Reid, from Lenzie, near Glasgow, would have woken up to this morning.
Sent to prison: Melissa Reid (left) and Michaella McCollum (right, both seen yesterday) have been jailed in Peru
Filthy: The ‘Peru Two’ were both sent to Santa Monica prison – an overcrowded and unhygienic jail rife with HIV and tuberculosis
Clothes can be seen hanging from the barred doors to the cell while the beds appears to be little more than make-shift rags on top a thin mattress.
In another picture, women who will now be the pair’s inmates can be seen cheering from a window.
The jail – which is notorious for its crowded and unsanitary conditions – has housed most foreign women prisoners in the past.
The prison was built for 250 women but now houses more than 1,000 in filthy conditions in which HIV and tuberculosis are rife. The pair may share a cell with up to 40 other women.
A report in 2002 by the US Department of State said inmates in Peru’s prisons often lacked access to potable water, adequate bathing facilities and hygienic kitchen facilities.
McCollum along with co-accused Reid, from Lenzie near Glasgow, pleaded guilty to drug smuggling in September.
The pair, both 20, had faced the prospect of a maximum 15-year prison term but struck a behind-closed-doors plea bargain to secure a shorter sentence. They were yesterday sentenced to six years and eight months in prison.
But the mother and sister of McCollum, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, have vowed to mount a legal bid to get her back to the UK to serve her sentence of six years and eight months in a Northern Ireland jail.
McCollum’s sister Samantha said the family’s lawyers would be working to get her sister home to serve her sentence in the UK.
Sentencing: Reid (right) and McCollum (back) arrive for their court hearing, in Lima, Peru, before being jailed
McCollum’s mother Nora, who described her daughter as an ‘honest, hard-working girl’, said she was ‘optimistic’ after hearing the length of sentence.
‘It was the best possible outcome they could have got,’ she told Daybreak, saying that her daughter phoned home at least once a day. ‘It was the shortest sentence she could have had, so I am happy with it.’
McCollum’s sister added that she was coping ‘really, really well’ inside prison.
‘Her faith has kept her going, she is very positive and optimistic, knowing this is going to bring her out very strong,’ she said.
‘She has got great support at home, she has nine other siblings at home, she is the baby of the family. We just want her home.’
She said the family still believed she had committed no crime.
‘In our opinion Michaella is innocent, in our opinion she will always be innocent,’ she told ITV’s Daybreak.
‘Michaella has never been in trouble before so this is a very big shock to us and we will all support her.’
Before pleading guilty, both women, who had been working on the Spanish party island of Ibiza this summer, had claimed they were coerced into carrying the drugs by Colombian drug lords who kidnapped them at gunpoint.
They said they were forced to board a flight from Lima to Spain in August with 24lb of cocaine in food packets hidden inside their luggage when they were arrested.
So far they have been held at the notorious Virgen de Fatima prison in Lima.
Their guilty pleas at the end of September came on the same day that the UN declared that Peru has now overtaken Colombia as the world’s number one coca leaf producer, the raw material of cocaine.
According to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, coca plantations in Peru covered 60,400 hectares last year.
Peru’s national prisons institute says that 90 per cent of the 1,648 foreigners in the country’s prisons are either sentenced or awaiting trial for drug trafficking.
Departing: McCollum (left) and Reid (right) leave the court after being jailed for six years and eight months
Leaving: A judge read out the sentence at the end of the 20-minute hearing, closed to the press and public.
Source : Daily mail