MICHAELLA McCollum has spoken of her regret at the ‘moment of madness’ that led her to being jailed in Peru for attempting to smuggle £1.5 million worth of cocaine out of the country.
The Co. Tyrone native, 22, was released on parole last Thursday after serving more than two years in prison in the South American country.
McCollum and Melissa Reid from Scotland were caught with 11kg of cocaine in their luggage at Lima Airport in August 2013 as they attempted to board a flight to Spain.
In her first TV interview since being released, McCollum told RTÉ that she would have had a lot of blood on her hands if the cocaine had successfully been transported to Europe.
She said: “In my time here, I thought, ‘What if the drugs had got back [to Europe]? What would’ve happened?’ I probably would’ve had a lot of blood on my hands, the amount of families that would’ve ruined.
“I could have caused a lot of harm to people,” she added.
McCollum and Reid initially claimed they had been kidnapped and forced to carry the drugs, but they later admitted to attempting to smuggle cocaine out of Peru.
They were jailed for six years and eight months in 2013.
During the RTÉ interview, McCollum said that she’d been very naive, young and insecure at the time of the offence.
“A lot of times I didn’t know how to say no to somebody,” she said. “I kind of just followed along with it and I guess a part of me kind of wanted to be something I’m not. But, simply, I made a decision in my moment of madness.”
She said that she was not a bad person and that she wanted to demonstrate that by doing something good – she said that she wanted to start doing voluntary work to help other troubled young people.
Her appearance on RTÉ drew criticism on social media, with many calling her apology staged.
One user @DavidOShelton said: “Becoming a drug mule sounds bit like heading to US on J1 visa.It’s all about the experience/what a kid can learn from it #MichaellaMcCollum”
Another @IrPsych added: “She was naive. Ah, that’s grand so. #Liveline. She was an adult. She committed a crime. What now, the chat show circuit? #MichaellaMcCollum”
It is understood that McCollum will have to remain in Peru for a number of years in accordance with her parole conditions.
She was freed after serving a third of her sentence under new legislation released last year in Peru regarding early prison release.
Melissa Reid remains in prison in the South American country and is trying to obtain permission to serve the remainder of her sentence in Scotland.