Ibiza drug mule Melissa Reid to admit smuggling cocaine – for six-year jail term
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20-year-old spoke to the Mail On Sunday from her prison cell in Lima, Peru
Her lawyer has agreed plea-bargain with prosecutors to slash her sentence
But she still maintains she travelled to South America ‘under duress’
One of the two British women arrested for drug trafficking in Peru is to plead guilty after striking a deal that could see her walk free from prison in less than three years.
Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum Connolly, both 20, were caught with £1.5 million worth of cocaine in their suitcases at Lima International Airport on August 6 and insisted they had been forced to carry the drugs.
But now Miss Reid has told The Mail on Sunday from her prison cell that she is going to admit travelling to the South American country with the intention of collecting the drugs and smuggling them back to Spain.
Her lawyer has agreed a plea bargain with prosecutors that will see her plead guilty to drugs trafficking in return for a formal sentence of six years and eight months.
Miss McCollum Connolly’s lawyer has hinted that she too may plead guilty, and was reported as saying: ‘It could happen.’
Melissa’s family, who feared she could be jailed for up to 25 years, are hopeful that the deal could mean she is freed in as little as two-and-a-half years.
They also believe the early guilty plea could pave the way for her to be transferred back to Britain.
The two girls, who had been working in Ibiza bars, have said they were forced to carry the cocaine by a British drug gang who threatened them and their families.
Now Miss Reid, from Lenzie, near Glasgow, has agreed not to pursue the line of defence that she was kidnapped at gunpoint and forced to carry the drugs.
And prosecutors have agreed to drop claims that she was being paid to carry the cocaine.
It means she is able to plead guilty to the charges without having to admit to being a willing and fully paid-up smuggler.
Miss Reid spoke to this newspaper on Friday by phone from the notorious Virgen de Fatima prison in Lima. She said: ‘I am really scared about what I am about to do but I am also relieved that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel.
‘I’m now coming to terms with the fact I am so far away from my family. This is real. After a lot of thought and advice from my lawyer I am going to go in front of the judge and admit I was in possession of the drugs and that I went to Peru to pick up drugs to take to Spain – I am willing to plead guilty to that.
‘I did it under duress, I still maintain that, and I am glad I do not have to say I accepted money to do it.
‘I am aware that I will have a drugs conviction, which could cause me many problems, but I am trying not to focus on that.
‘Pleading guilty is going to enable me to get back to my family in Scotland sooner rather than later. I do not want to be in jail until I’m 35 – I can’t get those years back.’
Miss Reid explained she had protested her innocence at first in the hope that the authorities would be able to track down the gang members but now accepts that is ‘too risky’ a strategy.
Pausing to compose herself as her voice faltered with emotion, she continued: ‘I cannot take that chance and face 15 to 25 years in jail after being found guilty at trial. The authorities here have done nothing in terms of trying to get evidence of others involved. We told them what we knew but it is almost like they don’t seem to want to look. It has been so frustrating and disheartening.
‘They don’t believe we were forced and they seem to think it’s our job to find the evidence – but it’s very hard to do that from behind bars. This is the easy way out for them.’
It is anticipated that once a plea is offered and accepted, Miss Reid will be moved to Ancon 2 prison, two hours outside Lima.
She expressed concern that she may be separated from Michaella, from Northern Ireland, whom she says is ‘like a sister’ to her. She said: ‘We keep each other going.’
Miss Reid is expecting to attend a deposition hearing on September 24 where she will be asked to admit her guilt in front of a judge.
A further court appearance will then be set for one or two months’ time to formally announce the sentence.
A term of six years and eight months is, crucially, below the seven-year limit that entitles prisoners in Peru to a reduction in sentence. It also entitles foreign prisoners to apply for a transfer to their own country.
As part of the plea bargain, Miss Reid is expected to be ordered to pay a fine in the region of £5,000 and could also be hit with additional costs.
Her father Billy, 53, an energy company manager, said yesterday that lawyers had told him the Peruvian system could allow for the eventual sentence to be less than three years
‘We are considering this as good a result as we could have hoped for,’ he said.
Mr Reid, who recently returned from Peru, continued: ‘It seems strange to be happy about the prospect of your 20-year-old daughter being sentenced to six years and eight months in jail, but we are delighted. Crucially, we could start pushing for her to be transferred to Scotland.
‘I am not proud of what has happened but I ask anyone to put themselves in the position of a 19-year-old who was threatened and told their family was at risk, and think how they would have acted.
‘Melissa is a loving, friendly, outgoing person. She has been unfairly introduced to unscrupulous thugs and criminals and did not realise what was going on until it was too late.’
Miss Reid’s lawyer Meyer Fishman confirmed last night that a sentence of six years and eight months was agreed in return for a plea of guilty during his meeting with the prosecutor.
A Brownie camp with barbed wire: Melissa’s prison diary
Melissa Reid has been keeping a diary of her ordeal in the bug-infested Peruvian prison.
In extracts seen exclusively by The Mail on Sunday, she likens it to a Brownie camp with barbed wire, describes the ‘gloop’ she has for breakfast and reveals how her daily routine includes toilet cleaning…
Thursday, August 22
All the other inmates in Virgin de Fatima are Peruvian or of some South American origin. They are all very shocked to see two white girls here.
Friday, August 23
It reminds me of a regimental Brownie camp, but with bars, barbed wire, cameras, police officers, cells and security guards.
Saturday, August 24
Starting to get a hang of the routine. I get up at 6am, take out the bin, clean the toilet, wake sleepy Michaella. At 6.30am we both clean and get dressed. From 7am–8am you can use the pay phone in the patio so we both call family. My father visits at 4pm, we relax in the evening, eat and are in bed for 9pm.
Sunday, September 1
Breakfast was soy milk and bread. I served the ‘gloop’. All the inmates were lined up and ready for their grub.
Friday, September 6
Proved we still care about our appearance as Michaella spent five hours this afternoon getting extensions removed and her hair coloured brown.
Saturday, September 7
On Monday the whole cell went through fumigation to get rid of the bugs. This has not worked. The bugs are just reminding me every morning that this place is crawling.
Tuesday, September 10
There was a man waiting outside the prison today with a package… for Michaella. It contained food, toilet roll and his mobile number… I find this strange that a male who does not know her would want to do this.
We were told that online many people are talking about ‘making us their wife’. Well I tell you what I will not be marrying any of these crazy Peru-anas (sic) with packages.
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