A former boyfriend of drugs mule Michaella McCollum has claimed her party girl public image was not a true reflection of her character.
Part-time DJ Brad Houston enjoyed a five-day fling with the Northern Ireland woman in Ibiza shortly be before she was arrested trying to smuggle £1.5 million of cocaine out of Peru.
“She’s a 20-year-old girl, like anyone’s normal daughter. She’s not a drug dealer,” he said.
The web developer from Salisbury also said he believed McCollum was innocent because she had no cover story to account for her week-long disappearance which sparked a global internet appeal.
He added: “If she was going to do a big £1.5 million drug deal or be a mule, the last thing she would do would (be to) get an international search for a missing person while she was doing that. She would have set her Facebook status or contacted her parents. She would have had a cover story. But, out of nowhere she just disappeared.”
Last week McCollum, 20, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, and co-accused Melissa Reid, 20, from Glasgow, pleaded guilty to drug smuggling when they appeared before a judge.
They had hoped the behind-closed-doors admission would be enough to secure a shorter sentence but prosecutors have demanded more information before accepting their admissions of guilt which the women hope will bring their jail time down to six years and eight months.
Speaking on a prime-time chat show aired by Irish national broadcaster RTE, Mr Houston said he never saw McCollum take drugs in Ibiza and did not believe she was involved with crime gangs.
“If I thought she was involved with dangerous people I do not think I would have spent any time with her,” he said.
“I have a career and I have a son as well so I wouldn’t want anything that could get me in trouble.”
He also dismissed claims McCollum may have been in financial difficulty because she had saved enough money to pay for accommodation for the whole season.
“She really did pride herself on being a strong Irish independent woman,” he added.
Despite the brief duration of their relationship, Mr Houston claimed to have a made a “real connection” with the former nightclub hostess. Photographs of the loved up pair drinking champagne on a boat were posted on his Facebook site.
He said: “I was there for a week and we spent five days together and I really did fob off my mates to spend time with her.
“We got on the sauce and drunk quite a lot; went to a few clubs and done some really good stuff together. We had some really deep conversations so we really did connect well out there.”
McCollum and Reid initially claimed they were kidnapped, held at gunpoint and forced to board a flight from Lima to Spain with 24lbs of cocaine in food packets hidden inside their luggage when they were arrested.
They have been detained by the authorities in Peru since last month and were transferred to the the harsh Virgen de Fatima prison in Lima after their recent court appearance.
Both women, who had been working on the Spanish party island of Ibiza this summer although Mr Houston said he never heard his former lover speak about a friend called Melissa.
“The name Melissa never came up,” he told the Saturday Night Show.
Mr Houston said he had not previously spoken out because he was in shock but now felt compelled to try and change the public perception of his ex.
“I can’t really change what’s happening with the court case over in Peru but, perhaps I can change the public’s view on Michaella because there has not been a lot of support,” he said.