Almost eight years ago, on 6 August 2013, everything changed for Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid: the two British women (both 20 years old at the time) were apprehended at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, Peru, after it was discovered that their suitcases contained £1.5 million of cocaine between them.
Prior to being paired up by the criminal minds who orchestrated the drug mules' plan, Michaella and Melissa weren't friends, but from then on, their lives would be intermeshed forever – as together, they became known as 'The Peru Two'.
After claiming that armed gangsters had forced them to carry the stash, both pleaded guilty to drug smuggling (in exchange for a financial pay-off) and were sentenced to over six years and eight months of jail time in the notorious Ancon 2 prison. They served three years before being released.
Now, Michaella (who also became infamous for wearing her hair in a large bun atop her head) is speaking out about her experience with drug trafficking and incarceration, and how it changed her, through a new five-part BBC series, High: Confessions of an Ibiza Drug Mule.
Where is Michaella McCollum of the 'Peru Two' now?
After serving three years in jail, Michaella - who is from a small Northern Irish town called Dungannon - wrote a book, You'll Never See Daylight Again, about her own drug-taking and the time she spent in prison. Within the memoir, she describes learning Spanish in order to better get along with other prison guards and inmates, some of whom she describes as 'psychotic' and violent, and how she later went on to have twin boys, Rio and Rafael.
Michaella has regularly spoken to the press about her story and recently told the BBC that thinking back to her jail time is like trying to recall a whole other life. "When people ask how I feel about it now, it feels like I’m thinking about a different person – I can’t relate to that person now," she said. "How was I like that? I just accepted things I didn’t feel comfortable with, but felt too shy to say anything about. Those three years in prison did so much to make me the person I am now, with the mindset and morals I have now."
She added that she regrets her choices and wishes that she would've had her guard up a little more too, "I was very naive when I was 19. I didn’t think anything bad could happen to me. I never questioned things, I just believed everything and trusted people way too easily. We shouldn’t be like that, not everybody has got your best intentions, strangers don’t care about you."
Nowadays, Michaella regularly posts glamorous travel photos and outfits shots on Instagram to her 39,000 followers and occasionally appears on TV shows such as Good Morning Britain to recount her story.
Where is Melissa Reid of the 'Peru Two' now?
In contrast to Michaella, who is vocal about her criminal past, Melissa has been keeping a much lower profile since her release. However, according to a Daily Mail report, she is back living in Scotland.
A quote from an unnamed neighbour is also given, praising her character, "We know her as 'Mel' but didn't know she had a history like that. To be honest, she is totally down-to-earth and is a sweet girl. I heard she worked for a charity and I see her from time to time out walking the dog, but we don't know her. This is a quiet neighbourhood and she's a quiet girl, no noise or anything. She seems to enjoy her own company and is never any bother."
After her arrest, Melissa confessed that she knew what she was doing when she accepted the offer of drug smuggling and expressed great remorse for her actions, "I’m embarrassed and ashamed and sorry and I want people to know that. I can’t sit here and say I made a mistake… I knew what I was doing. I made a conscious decision to do it and no one forced me."
She added that she was battling a 'downward spiral' at the time, having not only agreed to try and sneak the drugs past security, but was taking them herself. "I was taking drugs — ecstasy, ketamine and cocaine — and on a downward spiral and it wasn’t going to end well," Melissa confessed. "I honestly think that if I had carried on the way I was going I would be dead right now. I never worried about being caught. I never really thought about what I was doing. I think I wanted to be this big person that I’m not."
You can read more of Michaella's story in her memoir:
High: Confessions of an Ibiza Drug Mule is on BBC iPlayer now
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