‘Be strong’ father tells Peru drug suspect

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THE father of one of two women held on suspicion of drug smuggling in Peru has vowed to bring his daughter home.

William Reid flew to the capital Lima to support Melissa, who turned 20 yesterday, and told her during an emotional reunion to “be strong”.

Reid, from Scotland, and Michaella McCollum Connolly, 20, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone in Northern Ireland, are suspected by detectives of trying to leave the country with £1.5m of cocaine in their luggage.

They were detained while trying to board a flight from the Peruvian capital to Spain last week.

The pair both deny the accusations, and say they are victims of a violent gang who coerced them into carrying the drugs.

Lawyer Peter Madden, who is representing McCollum Connolly, was expected to arrive in Peru last night.

As he left Belfast for Lima he said that McCollum Connolly would deny any allegations if charged, but warned that legal proceedings could be lengthy.

He said: “She is saying she has done nothing wrong, that she is innocent and that as far as any offences are concerned, if she is charged she will be denying it.”

Mr Reid was able to visit his daughter at the Dirandro police station in Lima for 15 minutes on Wednesday night, the Daily Mail said, and for longer last night.

During their meeting, Reid told her father: “They made me do it.” She told him that while she worked on the Mediterranean party island of Ibiza she was introduced to a British man who eventually forced her into meeting a gang of Colombian gangsters, who put a gun to her head.

She told her father of how the gang forced her to fly to Peru, saying: “I wanted to tell the air hostesses or anyone in the airports, but the men said they would know if we had spoken to anyone, that they were watching all the time.

“It was a choice between doing what I was told and getting it over and done with and hopefully getting back to Spain or trying to escape and being killed.”

The two women may be held for up to 30 days before being charged and could then spend up to three years in prison awaiting trial.