Peru drug suspects seen on CCTV with ‘minders’

HELD: Michaella McCollum, left, and Melissa Reid after their arrest at the airport.
HELD: Michaella McCollum, left, and Melissa Reid after their arrest at the airport.
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NEW CCTV footage has emerged that purports to show the two young British women accused of trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5m out of Peru accompanied by a pair of minders.

The footage, which appears to show Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid loading their luggage into a taxi outside their hotel while two men look on, could lend credence to their claim they were forced to carry the drugs by an armed gang.

The video was recorded by a neighbourhood watch street camera on August 6 at about 6am, just hours before the pair were arrested at Lima airport.

The detailed statements given to police by the 20-year-olds were published along with grainy stills from the footage by a Sunday newspaper yesterday.

Their accounts tell how they were working in Ibiza and did not meet before they were both kidnapped at gunpoint and forced to travel to Majorca and then on to Peru.

They mention individuals allegedly involved in the plot called Jake, who had a London accent, Christian, from Liverpool, Hector, Enrique and Julio, a Peruvian.

On August 5 in Lima they say they were given packages to carry by an associate of the men, whom Reid claims she was ordered to meet near their hotel.

Reid, from Scotland, said in her statement: “Back at the hotel, Michaella and me started to suspect we were being used to carry drugs back.

“Enrique called to give us instructions on how to pack the drugs inside our suitcases. He told us to wrap them with our clothes.

“I started to cry and told him I couldn’t do it and he threatened us. He said his friends were constantly watching us and we would be killed if we didn’t do exactly as he said.”

McCollum, from Northern Ireland, said: “One bag had 16 packages, the other 18. They were wrapped in newspaper.

“While Enrique was speaking with us, we told him we did not want to go on with this. He told us we had to because his friends were waiting for us downstairs and they would be following us on our way to the airport.”

The women also describe feeling paranoid once they reached the airport, where McCollum said they felt “observed” and that “people were pointing their fingers at us”.

Reid said she felt relieved when the drugs were found and the police “took charge of everything”.

The women also claim that before they were given the drugs they were taken on a four-day tour of Machu Picchu, Sacsayhuaman and the Sacred Valley and were told to take pictures of the trip with a camera Enrique had given to McCollum.

They allege they were picked up from their hotel and sent on a flight to Cusco, a city in south-eastern Peru, where they were met by a “guide” called Americo, who “arranged everything”.

When asked by police if they had had a chance to go to the authorities for help prior to their arrest, Reid replied: “No”.

But McCollum admitted: “There were opportunities, yes – at the airport, during the tours we made, when some police officers asked us to take a picture with them.

“But we were too scared because if we told the police we would be called to testify and they had pictures of my family and a photocopy of my passport.”

Their accounts were published by the Mail on Sunday, which quoted a Peruvian police source as saying the new CCTV footage could be “hugely important”.

Peruvian police said they found around 11kg of cocaine hidden inside food packages in the women’s luggage as they tried to board a flight from Lima to Madrid.

McCollum, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and Reid, from Lenzie, near Glasgow, are charged with promoting drug trafficking.

They face a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted and could spend three years behind bars before they even face trial.