Northern Ireland

Michaella McCollum: Peruvian police 'deny' spoof report of search for drug trafficker's hair bun

Michaella McCollum is escorted in handcuffs into a car by police in Peru in August 2013 Image copyright AP
Image caption Michaella McCollum's distinctive bun hairstyle caused a stir at the time of her arrest

Peruvian police have denied a spoof report that they are searching for the distinctive bun hairdo of a convicted Northern Ireland drug smuggler.

Michaella McCollum was jailed in Peru after being caught with cocaine in her luggage at Lima airport in 2013.

She was released on parole last week and gave a television interview sporting a new blonde-haired look.

A joke report on Facebook claimed the authorities were "frantically trying to ascertain the whereabouts" of the bun.

Image copyright Dundonald Liberation Army
Image caption The Dundonald Liberation Army posted a 'missing' appeal with mock details of McCollum's bun

But Peru's police force played along with the joke by responding to the post on the Dundonald Liberation Army's (DLA) page to say that was not the case.

McCollum was arrested along with Melissa Reid, from Lenzie, near Glasgow in Scotland, when they were found trying to board a flight to Madrid in Spain with 11kg (24lb) of cocaine in August 2013.

She was pictured wearing her hair in a bun during a police interview that was shared around the world at the time.

The County Tyrone woman also wore the hairstyle to several court appearances in the Peruvian capital.

The bun caused a stir on social media and became news in itself.

Many viewers of McCollum's first interview since her release, which was televised by Irish state broadcaster RTÉ on Sunday, were surprised to see the bun had been ditched.

And after the interview the DLA posted on Facebook that people "were stunned" by its disappearance.

"The bun hasn't been seen since last Thursday and its family have made a heartfelt appeal for information about its whereabouts," the post read.

Image copyright Policía Nacional del Perú
Image caption McCollum sported the hairstyle during a police interview at Lima airport in 2013

"The bun's sister, a French plait, told reporters: 'We haven't heard from our bun for about four days now. It's not like her.'

The post continued: "The bun's family have also appealed for information about its whereabouts via social media."

But Peruvian police replied to the post claiming they were investigating the missing bun by saying: "No, we don't."

They told the BBC they found the DLA's post as they monitor social media for mentions of Peru police, and replied for fun.

Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption McCollum's new blonde hairstyle has sparked surprise on social media

McCollum said in the RTÉ interview that the bun was "a way of cleaning myself up" as she had been unable to wash her hair for 15 days while she was being questioned by police.

She said: "I didn't realise that was going to be such a big thing in the media until I remember my mum telling me: 'Please take your bun down, because everybody's talking about your bun.'

"Of course, that was the last of my worries, having my bun talked about so much."

Stephen Large, who runs the DLA Facebook page, said he was inspired to make the mock missing bun appeal after seeing the reaction on social media to McCollum's new style.

Image copyright Facebook

He said he was "laughing at the thought" that the Peruvian police would reply to his post to distance themselves from the spoof search.

"I couldn't believe it, I spent a good 15 minutes checking it was them... and it was," he added.

And he said they got the joke.

"When I put up a post about the Peru police replying, they loved it, so it looks like they saw the funny side."

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