Michaella McCollum, a 25-year old native of Northern Ireland who spent over two years in a Peruvian prison after being caught with 11 kg of cocaine in her luggage at Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima in 2013, shared gruesome details of her arrest and subsequent incarceration in her new book serialised in the Mail on Sunday.
Reminiscing about the circumstances of her arrest, Michaella recalled the shame of “being led across Lima airport’s departures hall in front of crowds of people waiting to board their flights,” and of being stripped after a subsequent interrogation.
"Two women came running in and started to peel my clothes off. I thought the walk of shame through the departures hall was as low as I could go. Standing there naked in an airport room took the humiliation to new depths," she wrote. "All I could think about was my family discovering what had happened. The news would utterly break them."
She also recalls the dismal holding conditions in their cell before trial, and how her interrogator advised her to plead guilty, warning of what might happen if she didn't.
"If you do go to trial, I recommend you plead guilty. Judges in Peru do not like liars or people who waste their time. If you admit your charges there is a very good chance the judge will be lenient, as it is your first offence,” he said. “But if you try to fight the charges and are then found guilty, which I have to say is a very real possibility, then from my experience you should be prepared to never see daylight again."
Michaella McCollum and her friend Melissa Reid were arrested in 2013 as they attempted to smuggle drugs from Peru to Spain. The duo pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years and eight months in prison, but in 2016 both were able to return to the UK.