Peru Drug Women Face Three-Year Prison Wait

Two UK women facing drug trafficking charges in Peru have been warned they face three years in jail before a trial date.

Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid, both 20, were arrested earlier this month at Lima's international airport with around 12kg (26lbs) of cocaine and were remanded in custody by a judge on Wednesday.

At their first court appearance, Judge Dilo Huaman questioned the women's defence that they had been threatened at gunpoint if they refused to carry the drugs in their luggage.

The judge asked why the pair did not ask for help when they had the opportunity at the airport.

The women responded that they were being threatened by "someone anonymous".

The prosecutor told the court that their story was "incoherent".

The pair were led into the courtroom for the administrative hearing in handcuffs, as Reid's parents, who flew out from the UK to support her, looked on.

Sky Correspondent Nick Martin, who was at the Lima court, said McCollum and Reid "looked very tired, very worried and very stressed.

"They had both lost a lot of weight - they've spent 15 days in a prison cell in Lima with very little sunlight."

McCollum, from Dungannon, County Tyrone, and Reid, from Glasgow, were also informed it could take three years for their trial to get under way should they plead not guilty.

They face a maximum prison sentence of 15 years if convicted, the prosecutor's office said.

McCollum's lawyer Peter Madden said they were effectively beginning a prison sentence as the pair were told in court it was unlikely they would be granted bail.

"Their main concern at the minute is that they may be separated, sent to different prisons," he said.

"They are very concerned that might happen. They did not know each other before this started, they have now become best friends."

After their arrest, the women told reporters that they had been kidnapped by a drugs cartel, taken to Peru and forced to transport drugs.