Archbishop praises ‘bravery’ of women facing court in Peru

Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum Connolly
Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum Connolly

A religious leader in Peru has praised the “bravery” of two suspected drug traffickers ahead of a crucial court hearing.

Michaella McCollum Connolly from Dungannon and Melissa Reid from Scotland are each expected to enter a plea before a judge in the capital Lima on Tuesday, September 24.

Archbishop Sean Walsh has been a frequent visitor to the two women since they were detained whilst trying to board a flight to Spain last month.

The pair, both 20, were found to have £1.5 million worth of cocaine hidden in their luggage.

Speaking to the News Letter yesterday, Archbishop Walsh said they were “doing as well as can be expected” ahead of the hearing.

“I have made a specific point of not asking the girls how they are going to plead – I just talk to them about the Lord Jesus,” he said.

The leading cleric, who is a member of the Aramaic Catholic Church, has visited the two women each Saturday since their detention on August 6.

“They are being treated well and respectfully. They are aware of the seriousness of the situation they are in but are being very brave.

“This has not been easy for them but they are doing well in the circumstances,” Archbishop Walsh added.

Both women have repeatedly claimed they were forced to smuggle the drugs by an armed gang after being approached while working in Ibiza.

However, Ms Reid has already indicated she is likely to plead guilty in return for a reduced sentence.

A report in the Sunday Independent carried a brief interview with McCollum Connolly, quoting her as saying: “The only thing I want to do is get out of here and return home.”

Her Belfast-based lawyer Peter Madden said last week that the family were finding it difficult to cope with the expense of travelling to Peru.