Northern Ireland

Michaella McCollum: Drugs smuggler freed from Peru prison

Michaella McCollum with prison escort Image copyright AFP
Image caption Michaella McCollum had been awaiting approval for her transfer back to Northern Ireland from Peru

County Tyrone drugs smuggler Michaella McCollum has been released from prison in Peru.

McCollum, from Dungannon, County Tyrone, and Scot Melissa Reid were caught with 11kg (24lb) of cocaine in August 2013.

They were searched at Lima's international airport and cocaine was found hidden inside packages of food.

The women initially claimed they had been kidnapped and forced to carry drugs, but later admitted the charges.

The pair admitted trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5m from Peru to Spain and were jailed for six years and eight months.

Kevin Winters, McCollum's solicitor, said she was released effectively on parole on Thursday night and he was waiting to hear the terms of her release.

"I can confirm Michaella has been released from jail and I'm waiting to hear the outcome of the judicial process," he said.

Melissa Reid from Lenzie, near Glasgow, who was also convicted for trying to smuggle cocaine, remains in prison in Peru.

A transfer request for her was approved by the Scottish Prison Service in January 2015.

But it says any transfer would ultimately be for the Peruvian prison service to determine.

Irish-American Archbishop Sean Walsh, of the Eastern Catholic Church, visited McCollum in prison earlier this week and said he did not expect "parole to happen this early".

"As it's at the discretion of the judges, it could have been delayed for some more years, but thank God, they are allowing her parole now.

"One reason perhaps is, in addition to her seriousness, she's young."

Fr Walsh said that during her parole, McCollum would be volunteering at the Eastern Catholic Church with Irish priest Fr Cathal Gallagher, who works with patients who have HIV.

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