A former boyfriend of one of the ‘Peru Two’ claimed yesterday that both women knew they were being used as drug mules and were warned not to go through with it.
Shane Knowles, a heavily tattooed convicted fraudster, said Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum Connolly were ‘money hungry’ and claimed it was their ‘own choice’ to carry the cocaine.
The 37-year-old, who dated Miss Reid over the summer in Ibiza, spoke out as it emerged that his former girlfriend’s own father remained unconvinced by her story and wanted her to plead guilty.
Miss Reid, from Lenzie near Glasgow, and Miss McCollum Connolly, from Dungannon in Northern Ireland, were caught in Lima, the Peruvian capital, trying to board a flight to Spain with £1.5million worth of the Class A drug stashed in food parcels in their luggage.
The pair, both 20, claim they were kidnapped and forced to carry the drugs by a gang of armed Colombian drug dealers who threatened to harm their families if they refused.
But Mr Knowles cast doubt on the girls’ account, claiming they knew exactly what they were doing and had plenty of chances to ‘walk away.’
‘I told them not to get involved,’ he said. ‘They were girls who hung around people with money in villas.
‘And then somebody made them a good offer and they went and did it.
‘Everyone is out there with no money, trying to make money and they obviously got an incentive to do it.’
Miss McCollum Connolly’s lawyer, Peter Madden, has repeatedly stressed that the women were not offered money at any stage.
However, Mr Knowles, who did not know Miss McCollum Connolly personally, but was aware of her circle of friends, added: ‘They made a choice. There were plenty of chances they had to stop and walk away.
'They are going to have a hard time, aren’t they? Tough on them. All of these girls are just money hungry.
‘[Melissa knew] another girl who did something naughty. The girl went and brought stuff back from Marbella. It gave Melissa the confidence to do this.’
Bodybuilder Mr Knowles, of Runcorn, Cheshire, lost his left eye in 1999 when he was nearly beaten to death in a gangland feud.
He started dating Miss Reid – who friends say took the horse tranquilliser drug ketamine during the month she was in Ibiza, but was not involved in dealing drugs during her stay on the island – after they met in San Antonio.
Mr Knowles, who claims he has left his criminal past behind, told the Irish Independent newspaper: ‘I had no connection whatsoever with this happening to the girls, only that I told them not to do it. I have not got one ounce of sympathy for them.’
The women, who were arrested almost three weeks ago, are currently being held in Lima’s tough Virgen de Fatima prison and it could be three years before they go on trial.
Miss Reid’s father said his daughter should change her plea to guilty in order to get a shorter sentence.
The two Britons could be sentenced to 15 years if convicted following a trial, whereas if they admit the charges they may get off with six years and eight months.
‘It’s indefensible to say that they didn’t have drugs or know they had drugs. They did carry the drugs.
‘They were found to have drugs on them. They collected packages which transpired to be drugs. They are going to be guilty of that.
‘If that’s the Peruvian law, regardless of the mitigating circumstances, then you are as well pleading guilty rather than defending that to the nth degree and be sitting there with 15 years that you’re trying to appeal and reduce.
‘These girls are young. They may be living in cloud cuckoo land and thinking that magically next week they’re going to go free.’
Mr Reid confessed that he was still not ‘100 per cent about their story’. ‘But two girls, who prior to Ibiza did not know each other, are telling a very similar story,’ he said.
‘They have been pretty consistent all along. Only those two girls know the truth.’
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