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Peru jail fear for drug suspects
Peruvian police say that more than 24lb of cocaine was found in the luggage of Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum Connolly
The mother of one of two women arrested in Peru on suspicion of drug trafficking has said her family cannot bear the thought of her spending years in prison.
Michaella McCollum Connolly, 20, from Northern Ireland, and Melissa Reid, 19, a Scot, claim they were ordered at gunpoint by Colombian gangsters to smuggle £1.5 million-worth of cocaine out of the South American country.
The pair, who deny drug trafficking allegations, were arrested while trying to board a flight from Lima to Spain last week. They are expected to appear before prosecutors in the Peruvian capital later, when they will be formally charged.
The women claim they were forced to carry the bags and were unaware they contained narcotics. Ms Reid told her father in an emotional phone call on Monday that she was forced to make the trip.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, William Reid, 53, said: "From what her friends and Melissa have been able to tell us, she was introduced to a group of men who she socialised with and this escalated to her being forced to carry out this journey. They came into her flat and told her to pack a bag. She didn't know where she was going. My daughter would 100% not have gone willingly. This is completely out of character. She was coerced into it."
Her parents told the newspaper they are flying to Lima to see their daughter, who turns 20 on Friday.
Her mother Debra said: "That is going to be a very hard day. She was planning on going to a special nightclub for her birthday. Her brother Liam is getting married in February and she was very excited about it. It will be heartbreaking for us if she's not there. We can't even think about her being in Peru for several years."
In an interview with the Daily Mirror from their police holding cell in Lima, the women claimed to have been coerced into carrying the drugs by members of a violent drug gang who put loaded guns to their heads.
Ms Reid insisted: "We were given no option. If we didn't do as we were told, we would be dead. We were not smuggling for money, we were smuggling for our lives. We have no doubt they would have killed us both without hesitation if we didn't do as we were told.
"Ever since I was arrested I have played out what has happened in my mind over and over again, asking myself how could we have gotten out of it. But each time I think it wasn't even an option. We both had loaded guns put to our heads. They were more than prepared to use them. If we didn't do it, we were told we would die."