Scots 'drug mule' claims she was 'forced' to take cocaine in luggage

A Scots teenager arrested in Peru over alleged £1.5m drug smuggling told police in a taped interview she was "forced" at gunpoint to take luggage containing cocaine.

Melissa Reid has been arrested and is accused of being part of a cocaine trafficking operation in the South American country.

The women are due to appear in court on Wednesday accused of attempting to smuggle the cocaine haul out of Peru.

A video taken by police at Jorge Chavez International Airport of 19-year-old Ms Reid and co-accused, Irish national Michaella McCollum Connolly surfaced on Tuesday.

Ms Reid, of Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, was on a working holiday in Ibiza when she was arrested at the airport in Lima last Tuesday after sniffer dogs detected cocaine in her luggage and that of her friend.

In the video, the former Lenzie Academy pupil states that she had been "forced" to take the bags and claims she "did not know" there were drugs contained in them.

Ms Reid is questioned by a police interviewer and is heard to say: "I was forced to take these bags in my luggage."

When asked if she knew they contained drugs, the teenage responds: "I did not know that."

The footage shows police removing packages of white powder from packets of crisps that have been removed from the pair’s luggage.

Ms Reid's father William told reporters at his home that the family are going through a "living nightmare" and have not slept since they found out.

He said his daughter is "bright, beautiful, bubbly and intelligent, just like her Facebook page shows".

He said he had a very brief phone conversation with his daughter and told her to be strong and not to get too emotional.

The family are being advised by the Foreign Office but Mr Reid said they are "not getting much information".

He said there is "no way" his daughter would have gone along willingly with a plan to smuggle drugs.

He feels his daughter may have been "groomed" by somebody who she may have thought was a friend she made on holiday.

The 53-year-old said the family have no plans to go to Peru at the moment and fears going out could actually put his daughter in "greater danger".

A churchman who visited the pair in Lima said they claimed to have been threatened at gunpoint by Colombian gangsters who forced them to traffic the cocaine.

Sean Walsh, an Irish-American archbishop with the Eastern Catholic Church, said: "They told me that there were a group of Colombians that actually took them at gunpoint and threatened them."

The Archbishop said the women were held for a while by the gang before being taken to Morocco and back again to Peru.

"I don't know how that happened, and I don't know how they got over to Peru," he said.

"There's no direct flight from Morocco, they go through Spain probably, but if they threatened them in some way that to me seems like a credible defence."

The Archbishop, who has been working with prisoners in Peru for several years, said he met with the two women for half an hour in the police offices of the holding centre.

"If they have been coerced or threatened as I think they are going to argue, then the fact that they physically had it in their possession may not mean that they were intentionally or wilfully doing it," he said.

"If they were forced with threats on their life or something then they might not have gone through with this."

The cleric said he believed the women would plead innocent on the basis of coercion. He said he did not see the cells the women were staying in but believed they were being treated well, and said one of their chief concerns was for their families.

The Foreign Office has confirmed it has visited Ms Reid who is being held in a police station in Peru, while it stated it is providing "consular assistance" to her following her arrest last week.

Police said they found more than 24lb of cocaine — thought to be worth around £1.5m — hidden in food in the women's luggage.

Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs said it was also providing consular assistance to the family of Ms Connolly, who had recently been living in Belfast.

The pair were stopped at the international airport's Air Europa counter. Officers said the women were in the process of boarding a flight to Madrid, which was travelling to Palma de Mallorca.

Both Ms Reid and Ms Connolly face between seven and 25 years in prison if convicted of the alleged drug trafficking in Peru.

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