Michaella McCollum Connolly And Melissa Reid Tell Of Lima Gang's Drug Drop

Two young women being held on suspicion of trying to smuggle £1.5 million of cocaine out of Peru told of how they were forced to take the drugs during a secret meeting.

Michaella McCollum Connolly, 20, from Northern Ireland, and Melissa Reid, 19, a Scot, were arrested while trying to board a flight from the Peruvian capital to Spain last week.

The women claim they are victims of a violent drugs gang who coerced them into carrying the drugs, and say they have resigned themselves to the likelihood that they face a lengthy prison term.

Police are waiting for a translator before officially questioning them, which is expected to happen in the next few days, the Associated Press said.

Ms Reid and Ms McCollum Connolly said they were given the 24lb (11kg) of cocaine outside their hotel, the Hotel Colonial San Agustin in the capital Lima, the day before were due to fly back to Spain, the Daily Mail said.

Speaking from inside police headquarters in Lima, Ms Reid told the newspaper: "I was the one who went to pick up the drugs outside our hotel.

"At that point I didn't know what was in the suitcase, drugs, guns or money, and we were like, 'we're not going to do it'. But they said, 'We've been watching you and you've got to do it'."

The pair, who deny drug trafficking allegations, claim they were ordered at gunpoint by Colombian gangsters to smuggle the drugs out of Lima.

Ms McCollum Connolly told the Mail: "I didn't realise drugs were so big here but it happens all the time. The police have said they see girls like us all the time. We've resigned ourselves to the fact that we're not going home soon and are doing jail time here."

Ms Reid told The Sun that her life had been turned upside down by the events and that she longed to be home.

She said: "If I could turn back time I think I'd put a gun to my head and get it all over with quickly. I'd love to be able to get home as soon as possible, but I know that's not going to happen.

"I understand that even if we help police, we're going to prison for a long time."

The two women had been working on the Spanish island of Ibiza, where they say they were snared by a drug cartel, robbed of their passports and phones and followed as they travelled on separate flights from Spain to Peru.

Once in South America, they say they were ordered to carry the cocaine hidden inside food packets.

The women insist they are now working with Peruvian police in an attempt to clear their names, and said they have visited the hotel where the drugs drop took place with police, who are looking for CCTV of the incident, the Mail said.

Ms McCollum Connolly, who holds an Irish passport, told The Sun they were trying to help police find the men behind the drugs gang to prove their innocence.

She said: "We'll take responsibility for what was found on us but we didn't do it of our own free will, we didn't have a choice."

She added: "Obviously we'd prefer to be somewhere else, but we're being treated ok. We're eating and have a bed to sleep on, even though it's more like a piece of concrete than anything."

Ms McCollum Connolly's ex-boyfriend, Andreas Garcia, said that it was common for young people in Ibiza to be forced into dealing drugs by violent pushers - though there is no suggestion the women used drugs.

The 31-year-old, who lived on the island with Ms McCollum Connolly, told the Daily Mirror that traffickers would loiter near bars and nightclubs and get teenagers hooked on drugs before forcing them to become dealers and drug mules after they racked up large debts.

Mr Garcia, who works in Amsterdam Bar in San Antonio, told the newspaper: "I've seen British guys come into the bar to try and recruit girls. They get them hooked on coke, on all sorts of things, and then make them do terrible things.

"They become low-level dealers at first. The gangs use the girls who work in clubs and bars to sell drugs to punters. That's how it starts. In return they get money and drugs on credit."

Ms Reid and Ms McCollum Connolly hope to be reunited with their families soon. Ms Reid's father William, 53, is expected to visit his daughter at the police station after flying from Glasgow, while Ms McCollum Connolly is also expecting relatives to arrive soon, the Daily Telegraph said.

Colonel Tito Perez Arrascue, of the National Police of Peru, told the newspaper the woman were not expected to be formally charged until Monday or Tuesday.

He said: "We have to take care. It's not a simple process, we have to investigate the case piece by piece. They will stay here for 15 days while we investigate."

Ms Reid and Ms McCollum Connolly could be held pre-charge for up to 30 days and then could spend up to three years in prison before a trial.

If convicted, they could face lengthy sentences in an overcrowded Peruvian prison where they will have to pay for everything, including food and bedding.