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One of the infamous Peru Two drug mules has proven to be the perfect example of how no matter how dark things may seem, it’s possible to turn your life around.
Born in Northern Ireland, Michaella McCollum, now 30, was just 20 years old when she was working as a part-time model and nightclub hostess in Ibiza when she made international headlines for drug smuggling.
She was arrested in Peru alongside Glasgow-born sales assistant Melissa Reid for carrying 11kg of cocaine worth £1.5million out of the country.
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The double act concealed the narcotic within sachets of oatmeal and jelly, which they thought would disguise the smell.
Their plan didn’t work, though, as they were caught at Lima Airport by customs officers and were arrested.
From then on, they were known as the Peru Two and were sentenced to six years and eight months in notorious high-security prison, Ancon 2.
At the time, the women claimed they had been forced by an armed gang to carry the drug and were paid just £4,000 each.
Michaella was granted parole on March 31, 2016, after serving only half of her sentence, and Melissa was subsequently freed on June 21 of that same year after the Peruvian authorities agreed to ‘expel’ her from the country.
While many thought it was over the pair of them, it proved not to be.
The 30-year-old’s life is miles away from the nightmare it once was, as a decade after her capture, she has celebrated her graduation from the University of Ulster with her twin boys by her side.
Her impressive success doesn’t end there – as she is about to begin working at a veterinary recruitment firm and has embraced the limelight to share her story with the world.
Over the years, Melissa’s popularity has increased dramatically and she’s gained more than 100,000 followers on Instagram, where she posts updates on her life and is a public speaker at events.
From time to time, she can be seen jet-setting around the world with her five-year-old twin boys, Rio and Rafael.
She’s also written a memoir about her Peru ordeal, called You'll Never See Daylight Again, which was later turned into a five-part BBC/Netflix series which she narrated.
The BBC later confirmed Michaella had not received payment for the documentary.
Michaella’s accomplice, Melissa, on the other hand, is believed to be doing charity work back in Scotland.
Years after being released from prison, Michaella appeared on Good Morning Britain and described the horror she felt when she realised the seriousness of her predicament.
She admitted that at first, she felt “numb” – and once the gravity of the situation sunk in for her, it was “petrifying”.
“I actually didn't even think about the consequences of what that would do to society or myself and my family… I wasn't thinking at all. It was just so stupid,” she said.
“When you’re young, you don’t know it all. I made a dreadful mistake and I regret it, but what prison taught me made me who I am today and that’s a better person than I would have been otherwise.
“I am a mam now and I am going to get on with being the best one I can.”
Her Instagram followers are impressed with how she has turned her life around, with many people leaving positive comments on her posts.
“Beautiful and successful who’d of funked it. Just goes to show you can break barriers with the right motivation,” one person wrote.
“I've heard so many stories where people's lives just spiral but you are proof you can stop that and choose to change your path. Well done,” said another.
“You look amazing. Congratulations on your degree it’s bloody hard work, especially with two little ones hats off to you! Proof that your past does not define you!” a third commented.
A fourth person added: “Congrats. I enjoyed your documentary. You have carved a great path forward for yourself – well done.”
- In the News
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