Billy Reid is only too aware that many, not least detectives in Peru, will see Melissa and Michaella McCollum Connolly as just another pair of willing drug couriers in the cocaine capital of the world.
Their story is certainly extraordinary. Contrary to claims from Ibiza, they say they were not even peripherally involved in the island’s drug culture, yet were selected almost at random, kidnapped, taken from Spain to Peru and terrorised into smuggling drugs for a Colombian gang.
The tale ended with their arrest at Lima airport on August 6, with £1.5million worth of cocaine in their luggage. Yesterday Mr Reid, 53, urged his daughter to ‘tell me the truth’ and come clean if she had got herself in trouble.
Asked directly by her father if she had taken drugs, Melissa appeared affronted, replying: ‘No, Dad I didn’t. I promise.’
Mr Reid, who works for the National Grid in Glasgow, said: ‘I did think initially that there was a chance she might have taken drugs in Ibiza and maybe got mixed up in something.
‘But I asked her directly more than once if that was the case – I told her that, while I don’t condone it, it doesn’t matter now – and she insisted she hadn’t. I believe her.’ But she and Michaella will have a harder job convincing a court. Both women deny even taking drugs, still less selling them, as has also been alleged.
They said they would have no reason to lie about having taken a few pills, when they are facing a lengthy jail sentence for the much more serious charge of smuggling.
But they realise that persuading the police they were coerced will be a tall order.
When they asked a lawyer at the police station whether they could avoid jail if they could prove they were kidnapped, he replied: ‘What’s the proof?’.
They were formally questioned for the first time yesterday, and spoke through their lawyers. They are expected to be transferred soon to the notorious Santa Monica prison.
BABA ATIAJE UCHUNGU HAPA'KWELI MAPENZI YA MWANA AYAJUAE NI BABA WA UKWEE''RUWA MANGA"
'PERU WILL BE OUR ANNUAL FAMILY HOLIDAY NOW': FATHER'S FEARS FOR 'GIRLY' DAUGHTER AS SHE FACES THREE YEARS IN PRISON BEFORE TRIAL
Next week, she and Michaella are due to be moved to notorious Santa Monica prison, in Lima, where they will be held until their trial, which could be up to three years away.
Arriving in Lima airport after travelling for 15 hours from Glasgow on Wednesday, Mr Reid (right, with Melissa), 53, said: ‘I wonder how many times I will make this journey over the next few years. I suppose this will be our annual family holiday now.
‘I just don’t know how often we will be able to visit her – one a year, twice tops, and that breaks my heart.’
Mr Reid has been warned that he cannot bring too many belongings to Melissa once she is in prison because it will make her a target with her fellow inmates, most of whom will be Peruvian-born drugs traffickers and dealers.
For the girl who is rarely without her hair straighteners, Mr Reid knows that she will struggle to adjust to harsh living conditions inside the prison.
After bringing her magazines, Vaseline, moisturiser and chicken and chips to the police station the night before her birthday, he becomes emotional once he is outside.
He says: ‘I worry so much for them when they are moved from here next week to a prison.
‘I won’t always be here to bring them chicken and chips and give them hugs. They are being very brave now, but I wonder if the reality of the situation has not sunk in yet.’
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