Melissa Reid
Melissa Reid, centre, was arrested in Lima with friend Michaella McCollum Connolly on 6 August.

A British woman arrested attempting to leave Peru with cocaine worth £1.5 million is expected to plead guilty in a deal that could see her walk free from prison in less than three years.

Melissa Reid, 20, from Glasgow, is believed to have entered a plea bargain with authorities after she was caught with the narcotics at Lima International Airport on 6 August with her friend Michaella McCollum Connolly, also 20, from Northern Ireland.

Customs officers found 11kg (24lb) of cocaine hidden in food packets in their suitcases as they tried to board a flight to Spain.

Until now, both women have insisted they were forced to carry the drugs after being threatened at gunpoint by a criminal gang.

But lawyers for Reid have now struck a deal with prosecutors that will give her a formal sentence of six years and eight months, the Mail on Sunday reported.

Reid confirmed her intention to a Mail reporter in a phonecall from her prison cell in Lima.

Reid's lawyer Meyer Fishman confirmed that a sentence of six years and eight months was agreed in return for a guilty plea during his meeting with the prosecutor.

Reid told the Mail she will admit to travelling to Peru with the intention of collecting the drugs and smuggling them back to Spain.

Reid's family said the deal could mean she is freed in less than three years, and could be transferred to a UK jail before that.

The pair, who had been working in Ibiza, had faced up to 15 years in prison for drug trafficking.

Reid said she has been promised prosecutors would then drop claims that she was being paid to carry the drugs.

She told the tabloid: "After a lot of thought and advice from my lawyer I am going to go in front of the judge and admit I was in possession of the drugs and that I went to Peru to pick up drugs to take to Spain. I am willing to plead guilty to that.

"I did it under duress, I still maintain that, and I am glad I do not have to say I accepted money to do it."

McCollum Connolly's lawyer has hinted that she too may plead guilty, and said: "It could happen."

'This is real'

Reid, from Lenzie, near Glasgow, added: "Pleading guilty is going to enable me to get back to my family in Scotland sooner rather than later.

"I do not want to be in jail until 35. I can't get back those years. I am really scared about what I am about to do but I am also relieved that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel.

"I am aware that I will have a drugs conviction, which could cause me many problems, but I am trying not to focus on that. I'm now coming to terms with the fact I am so far away from my family. This is real."

She said she had initially protested her innocence in the hope that authorities would be able to track down the gang members but said she now believed that was "too risky" a strategy.

She added: "I cannot take that chance and face 15 to 25 years in jail after being found guilty at trial. The authorities here have done nothing in terms of trying to get evidence of others involved.

"We told them what we knew but it is almost like they don't seem to want to look. It has been so frustrating and disheartening.

"They don't believe we were forced and they seem to think it's our job to find the evidence. But it's very hard to do that from behind bars. This is the easy way out for them."

Reid said McCollum, from Dungannon in County Tyrone, was "like a sister" to her and that the two helped "keep each other going".

Reid will now attend a deposition hearing on 24 September, where she will be asked to admit her guilt before a judge.

A further court appearance will then be set for one or two months' time to formally announce the sentence.

A term of six years and eight months falls below the seven-year threshold which entitles prisoners in Peru to apply for a reduced sentence, along with a transfer home for foreign prisoners.

As part of the plea bargain, Reid is also likely to face a £5,000 fine and additional court costs.

Reid's father Billy Beid, 53, an energy company manager, said: "We are considering this as good a result as we could have hoped for.

"It seems strange to be happy about the prospect of your 20-year-old daughter being sentenced to six years and eight months in jail, but we are delighted. Crucially, we could start pushing for her to be transferred to Scotland.

"I am not proud of what has happened but I ask anyone to put themselves in the position of a 19-year-old who was threatened and told their family was at risk, and think how they would have acted.

"Melissa is a loving, friendly, outgoing person. She has been unfairly introduced to unscrupulous thugs and criminals and did not realise what was going on until it was too late."

Both women have been charged with drug smuggling, and are being being held at the notorious Virgen de Fatima women's prison in Lima.