THE FAMILY of jailed drugs mule Michaella McCollum Connolly have insisted that she is innocent and intend to lodge an appeal in Peru to ensure she serves part of her six year sentence in the UK.
The 20-year-old Dungannon woman was jailed for six years and eight months by a court in Peru where she was arrested earlier this year for attempting to smuggle £1.5 million worth of cocaine out of the country.
Her accomplice, Melissa Reid from Glasgow, also 20, was also handed the same sentence.
Both women pleaded guilty to smuggling 11kg of the drug in September, however, Ms McCollum Connolly’s family still believe that she is not guilty of committing any crime.
In an interview this morning on ITV’s Daybreak, her sister Samantha said: "In our opinion Michaella is innocent, in our opinion she will always be innocent.
"Michaella has never been in trouble before so this is a very big shock to us and we will all support her."
She added that the family would not be celebrating Christmas, and that the family’s lawyers would be working towards allowing her sister to serve part of her sentence in the UK.
"We will be getting the legal team to try and sort all that out," she said.
"It will be a long legal process, we will be getting Michaella home as soon as possible, so she will be back home soon."
Until then the women will be sent to Santa Monica prison in Chorrillos, which has a reputation for housing the majority of foreign women prisoners.
According to Samantha, she is coping "really well" inside prison.
"Her faith has kept her going, she is very positive and optimistic, knowing this is going to bring her out very strong," she added.
"She has got great support at home, she has nine other siblings at home, she is the baby of the family. We just want her home."
Ms McCollum Connolly’s mother Nora referred to her daughter as an "honest, hard-working girl", and told Daybreak that the sentences awarded yesterday were “the best possible outcome they could have got.”
"It was the shortest sentence she could have had, so I am happy with it," she said.
Initially, the women denied the allegations against them and claimed they were forced to carry bags containing the cocaine by armed men, however, they later admitted their role.
Ms McCollum Connolly – who had moved to Ibiza from Belfast -was reported missing in August.
Her family appealed for information through social media, but later discovered she was located in Peru and had been arrested.