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Dublin: 13°C Friday 30 July 2021

"Keep your mouth shut" - Fellow drug mule's prison advice to Michaella McCollum

Belfast woman Lillian Allen was also convicted of drug smuggling in Peru.

Image: Martin Mejia/AP

A BELFAST WOMAN who was convicted in Peru of smuggling over a stone of cocaine says she told Michaella McCollum Connolly to ‘keep her mouth shut’ while in prison.

Lillian Allen told The Anton Savage Show on Today FM that she advised convicted drug smuggler McCollum Connolly to “keep your mouth shut, just carrying on doing what you’re doing.”

Allen told the show about her conviction for attempting to carry 17 pounds (7.7 kg) of cocaine through a Peruvian airport and her subsequent time in prison.

Allen says she was duped into carrying the drugs by a man who she spent time with while on holiday in Peru. She says she was leaving Peru for Greece and the man had asked her to bring some handbags to his brother who was planning to sell them.

“I was due to return home, the night before he asked me would I take some bags to his brother in Greece that’s where I was going, I said yes.”

“He gave me 10 bags, five handbags and five schoolbags. I looked in them and seen nothing. He said his brother had a shop in Greece and was going to sell the bags”

She adds that she took the bags and looked at them but did not know they contained cocaine. She was stopped by Peruvian police during an airport transfer in Lima.

They took me to a room and showed me my bags. They asked were they my bags, I said yea and they asked have I got the key, I said yea. ‘Can you open it?’ And I opened it. He looked through the suitcase, took one of the bags out, cut it open and when he cut it open a whole lot of white stuff fell on the floor.

Allen says she was then handcuffed to a chair for the next 13 hours before being stripped naked and scanned.

Charged in court, Allen said she had no option but to plead guilty because not doing so would mean the case would go on for three years. Furthermore, her story would not get a fair hearing:

If you tell them that they’re gonna think that you’re making up a story. They don’t do fingerprints, they don’t do anything to prove that you haven’t touched these drugs. It’s just bang, you’ve got the drugs on you, you’re caught, it’s your fault.

PastedImage-57556 Lillian Allen speaks to BBC News. Source: BBC News

Allen spent almost three years in prison before being paroled, she described the conditions as “disgusting” and “like Alcatraz”.

“Eight beds in a cell, so that’s eight ladies at once in the room with a hole in the floor which you have to do a wee in or whatever,” she explains.

Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid were sent to the prison while Allen was already there. She said she’d read up about their case beforehand and was expecting their arrival but added that she did not seek them out straight away.

“I didn’t go out of my way, I waited till I could see them outside, it’s much better outside it’s much quieter and you can talk, ” she says.

“I introduced myself, they introduced themselves. We went and had a little talk and I told them to be careful to do their own thing. You don’t need to mix with anyone else, this is your choice. Keep your mouth shut, just carrying on doing what you’re doing.”

Asked by Anton Savage whether their pair seemed afraid, Allen Lillian replied, “no, not at all”.

The Belfast grandmother applied for parole after two-and-a-half years and, after a delay, was given a court date in which she accepted responsibility for what happened and explained what she learnt in prison.

“I learnt a lot,” she says. “I learnt how to make wallets and purses, we learned all sorts of things. I learnt how to paint.”

Allen said in a recent interview with the The Sunday Life newspaper that she had been banned from leaving Peru after her release but paid-off officials at the airport and made her way back to the UK.

Tyrone woman McCollum Connolly’s transfer to a Northern Irish prison has been approved but she has yet to be repatriated.

Read: Belfast prison agrees to take drug smuggler Michaela McCollum >

Read: Michaella McCollum Connolly ‘endured a significant amount of stress’ >

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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