Michaella McCollum Connolly (L) and Melissa Reid may have been forced to smuggle drugs by Phil Collin's nephew
Michaella McCollum Connolly (L) and Melissa Reid may have been forced to smuggle drugs by Phil Collin\'s nephew

Two British women arrested in Peru on suspicion of drug smuggling are said to have been recruited by the nephew of musician Phil Collins.

Melissa Reid,19, from Lenzie, near Glasgow, and 20-year-old Michaella McCollum Connolly from Dungannon, Northern Ireland, were arrested in the Peruvian capital of Lima after police found more than 11kg (24.2lbs) of cocaine in their luggage, estimated to be worth £1.5m.

Police alleged that the women were working as "mules" to smuggle drugs from South America to Europe.

The women claimed they were forced to take the luggage containing the drugs at gunpoint after being kidnapped in Ibiza. They told police they were not aware the bags contained the cocaine.

According to Peruvian media, police now believe the pair were recruited by a drug cartel operated from prison by Philip Austin Collins, the nephew of the Genesis singer.

The 38-year-old was arrested in Peru last year after he was caught trying to smuggle £3m worth of cocaine on a yacht in the Atlantic Ocean.

Officers now believe Collins may have been the one who arranged the kidnapping of the girls while they were living in Ibiza.

A police source told the Peru newspaper El Comercio: "Officers have confirmed the link between the arrested women and the mafia allegedly led by Philip Austin Collins whose organisation tends to use drug mules from the UK.

"Although Collins is being held in jail awaiting trial, the drugs trafficking organisation he allegedly created in our capital is still active. The failed attempt to smuggle cocaine through these two women is said to be proof of this."

'We're not going home soon'

During police interviews, Reid claims she was handed the bags at a hotel in Lima but was unaware what was inside. The pair previously said they refused to carry the bags but were threatened by the gangsters.

Reid told police that when she received the bags "I didn't know what was in the suitcase - drugs, guns or money - and we were like, "we're not going to do it". But they said: 'We've been watching you and you've got to do it'".

Connolly has said she has come to the terms with the fact she will likely face jail time in the South American country. If found guilty of drug smuggling the pair face up to 25 years in jail, but this could be reduced to eight if they are found not guilty of belonging to a gang.

Police said the women could be out in two years if they confess with good behaviour.

Connolly said: "I didn't realise drugs were so big here but it happens all the time.

"The police have said they see girls like us all the time. We've resigned ourselves to the fact that we're not going home soon and are doing jail time here.

"We'll take responsibility for what was found on us but we didn't do it of our free will, we didn't have a choice."

A spokesman for singer Phil Collins told the Daily Mail: "This has nothing to do with my client so there is no comment to be made."