It is a moment of overwhelming joy and relief, as a daughter is reunited with her delighted parents after years apart.
But it is a moment also tinged with bitterness and regret.
For Melissa Reid is one of the ordinary middle-class young women who became notorious around the world as the Peru Two, caught trying to smuggle more than a million pounds’ worth of drugs from South America.
Now Reid has spoken for the first time since her release from prison – and in an extraordinary interview admits that she turned to crime for the thrill of it.
Relief: One of the Peru Two drugs mules, Melissa Reid, flies home with her father Billy after her expulsion from Peru. She was arrested trying to smuggle more than a million pounds’ worth of cocaine from South America
Homecoming: After three years as a prisoner in Peru, the 22-year-old is welcomed home by her parents Billy and Debbie, at their home in Lenzie, Glasgow
Family: Reid’s parents Debbie and Billy are thrilled to have her back home with them in Lenzie, Glasgow, after three long years as a prisoner in Peru – after she attempted to smuggle drugs into Spain
In this exclusive account, Reid, 22, reveals that:
- She lied to police, saying armed gangsters had forced her to carry cocaine – when in fact she had willingly smuggled the drugs not only for £4,000 payment, but also because she wanted to be able to ‘boast’ about it;
- She is terrified that the gang she was working for may take retribution against her for losing the £1.5 million haul;
- She might by now be dead from the drugs she was taking as part of the hedonistic life that she had fallen into on the Spanish holiday island of Ibiza had she not been sent to prison;
- A mystery English girl recruited her into the criminal underworld.
I have been with Reid every step of the way following her release from prison in Peru last week. I accompanied her as she celebrated her freedom with her father Billy on the long flight to Britain, and witnessed the delight of her mother Debbie as she was able to hug her daughter again.
In a searingly honest interview on the plane and at the family’s home in Lenzie, Dunbartonshire, Reid told me: ‘No one forced me.’
She said she didn’t consider the consequences of her actions at the time but now took ‘full responsibility’. She said: ‘I did an awful thing and paid the price.’
Reid’s time in jail in the South American country was tough, and she was forced to face up to the guilt and the bleak reality of her situation.
Busted: Reid has spoken out for the first time since her release from prison in an exclusive interview with the Mail on Sunday, in which she revealed that she agreed to carry the drugs so she could ‘boast’ about it. Pictured, Reid with fellow drugs mule Michaella McCollum Connolly after being arrested in Lima, Peru
Arrest: The pair lied and said they had been forced into carrying the drugs and threatened by a gang of armed men, but in reality, Reid now admits, they were never pressured into smuggling
She says: ‘I regret what I did and I don’t want to make any excuses. I’m embarrassed and ashamed and sorry and I want people to know that. I can’t sit here and say I made a mistake… I knew what I was doing. I made a conscious decision to do it and no one forced me.
‘I was taking drugs – ecstasy, ketamine and cocaine – and on a downward spiral and it wasn’t going to end well. I honestly think that if I had carried on the way I was going I would be dead right now.
‘I never worried about being caught. I never really thought about what I was doing. I think I wanted to be this big person that I’m not.
I never worried about being caught. I never really thought about what I was doing. I think I wanted to be this big person that I’m not.
‘I’m a Daddy’s girl and have been lucky to have had an easy, sheltered life thanks to the hard work of my parents. I took all that for granted and thought I was invincible and that nothing bad would ever happen to me.
‘Reality kicked in the moment I was arrested in the airport and I realised the gravity of what I had done. I was scared and made up a story thinking I would be believed.’
It was on June 22, 2013, that Reid – who had been working at Next after leaving school – set off to Ibiza with friend Rebecca Hughes for what was meant to be a rite-of-passage working holiday.
In her pre-flight excitement, she wrote on social media: ‘#mightnotcomeback’. Her parents, who first met in Ibiza 30 years ago, waved the pair off from Glasgow Prestwick Airport thinking sunburn and a hangover would be the extent of their worries.
However, just over a month later they received a call from the Foreign and Commonwealth office to tell them their eldest daughter had been arrested and faced years behind bars in South America.
The story of Reid and Northern Irish accomplice Michaella McCollum sent shockwaves around the world. How could such normal young women from ordinary, hardworking families become entangled in the dangerous and grimy world of drug trafficking?
Trouble: Reid had only been on a working-holiday in Ibiza for just over a month when her parents received a call from the Foreign and Commonwealth office to tell them their eldest daughter had been arrested and faced years behind bars in South America. Pictured, Reid about to appear in court in Lima for drug trafficking
Worry: The story of Reid and Northern Irish accomplice Michaella McCollum sent shockwaves around the world. Pictured, the pair at the Callao courtroom in Peru
Stash: The women, then aged just 19 and 20, carried the cocaine in food packages hidden in their luggage. Reid revealed that there was so much cocaine they were only able to fit in a few items of clothing to cover it
Reid, who says she feels ‘very lucky’ to have been granted expulsion from Peru after serving less than half of her six years and eight month sentence, admits that her life quickly went ‘out of control’ after she touched down in Ibiza.
‘In Ibiza there are strong influences and everyone is taking drugs – it becomes completely normal. I got swept up in that. If you are not living like that you’re the odd one out. In the UK, taking drugs is frowned upon but over there it’s right in front of your face. People who wouldn’t do it at home do it there.’
I was an easy target as I was up for anything. I met this English girl in my apartment complex who was a tout and was the girlfriend of one of the Ibiza mafia who controlled the drugs
She continues: ‘I was an easy target as I was up for anything. I met this English girl in my apartment complex who was a tout and was the girlfriend of one of the Ibiza mafia who controlled the drugs.
‘She went around the clubs, she was the go-between.
‘She was honest with me and asked if I wanted to go to Argentina to pick up a package. She didn’t say what drugs or how much, but said it would only be for a day. I thought it sounded like a challenge and was blasé about it.
‘I was offered €5,000 but it wasn’t just about the money. I had saved up before I left Scotland so I had cash for rent.
‘I didn’t owe any money or anything. I just wanted to be able to boast about it.’
Reid explains: ‘I wasn’t in the right state of mind, was living this ridiculous life and wanted to show I could manage it. I now realise that I put myself at risk and no one would have known where I was if anything had happened to me, but I didn’t care at the time.’
Reid said she was introduced to an English man called Jake at a nightclub and a South American man named Hector, who gave her a plane ticket to Madrid via Majorca and a BlackBerry mobile phone.
She stayed for two nights in a house in Majorca with a group of Peruvian men before continuing on to Madrid, where she was taken to a travel agency and given an itinerary for a trip to Peru.
Reid (pictured before the trouble began) said she was introduced to an English man called Jake at a nightclub and a South American man named Hector, who gave her a plane ticket to Madrid via Majorca and a BlackBerry mobile phone
Downward spiral: The pair were told how to pack their suitcases – one with 16 packages and one with 18 – and then wrap them in clothes
One of the Peruvian men, named Julio, said she would be given a package in the Peruvian capital Lima to bring back but that she would first complete a four-day sightseeing trip around some of Peru’s famous tourist spots and had to take photographs to make it seem legitimate.
‘I didn’t realise I was going to be sent to Peru until I was in Madrid,’ Reid says. ‘I just went along with it. The guys had guns but I was never threatened.’
On arrival in Lima at the end of July, she was taken to Hotel San Agustin Colonial in the upmarket district of Miraflores before returning to the airport the next day to meet Michaella, whom she had met briefly for the first time in Majorca.
After visiting the city of Cusco, famous for the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, the pair returned to Lima on August 5 and picked up the drugs.
The next day we went to the airport. I remember I was sh*****g myself inside but on the outside I had my game face on
Reid left the hotel and met a man near a pizza parlour who asked her to confirm her identity before handing her a plastic bag filled with small packages.
They were told how to pack their suitcases – one with 16 packages and one with 18 – and then wrap them in clothes.
She says: ‘I had been advised to put the packets in the corners but there were so many of them they took over most of the space. There were only about ten small pieces of clothing in there.
‘I couldn’t sleep that night but I tried to make sure I looked calm.
‘The next day we went to the airport. I remember I was sh*****g myself inside but on the outside I had my game face on.
‘There were sniffer dogs and we joined the queue for the flight.
‘We had wrapped our cases in plastic wrapping but we must have looked out of place among all the backpackers.’
The women were approached by security staff, who took them away to a private room where a police officer searched their luggage. Some of the contents were tested before they were handcuffed and led away for questioning.
Reid and McCollum were paraded before the cameras as they were questioned about the crime while standing by their luggage, with the footage broadcast around the world.
The women were approached by security staff, who took them away to a private room where a police officer searched their luggage. Pictured, Reid arrives at Lima’s international airport to board a flight back to Scotland
Reid and McCollum were paraded before the cameras as they were questioned about the crime while standing by their luggage, with the footage broadcast around the world. Pictured, Reid about to return home to Scotland after three years as a prisoner in Lima
The footage later shows the scale of the drugs haul – more than 24 lb of cocaine concealed inside packs of Quaker’s porridge, some jelly mixture and other foil packages. Pictured, Reid on her way home to Scotland
Reid is seen rubbing her eyes before telling the authorities: ‘I was forced to take these bags in my luggage.’ And when asked if she knew there were drugs within, she said: ‘No, I did not know that.’
The footage later shows the scale of the drugs haul – more than 24 lb of cocaine concealed inside packs of Quaker’s porridge, some jelly mixture and other foil packages.
Reid was shaken to the core. She recalls: ‘I broke down and could not stop crying. I was a mess, pulling my hair out, too upset to call my mum. I couldn’t face it.’ It was very different from how she had expected things to go.
It didn’t sink in until I was arrested. Only then did I realise what I was actually doing. Only then did I actually stop and think and by then it was too late.
‘When I got to Peru I don’t remember being worried I might get caught, but I did think I was being watched. I thought that there were people making sure I followed through with it. I just wanted to finish the job and go back to normal.
‘It didn’t sink in until I was arrested. Only then did I realise what I was actually doing. Only then did I actually stop and think and by then it was too late. At that point I felt scared of what was to come and I knew I faced a long sentence.’
In her terror, she followed the plan she had been given by the gang of what to do if the police discovered her haul of drugs.
She says: ‘We had been told what to say if we got caught and we did that. We said we had been made to do it.
‘We had about five days after that to make up a story about what happened. We thought we would be believed and it would all go away, but we were wrong.
‘I now feel ashamed about lying – lying to my dad when he first came to see me in the holding cell in the police station.
‘But I had lied so much by then it almost felt like the truth.
‘I had my 20th birthday in that police station. It certainly wasn’t the celebration in Ibiza I had been planning. I have learned the hard way and I have to deal with the guilt and the consequences.’
To this day, she reveals, she is fearful of possible recriminations.
Upset: Reid revealed to the Mail on Sunday that she now feels ‘ashamed about lying – lying to my dad when he first came to see me in the holding cell in the police station’
Scared: Reid revealed that she is ‘still scared of the men who asked me to do it’. She is concerned that the men will follow her and do ‘something bad’ to her or her family
Future: Although she ‘still can’t believe’ that she’s now free, Reid has said she is worried about her future, that she will face barriers now for the rest of her life because of what she did
‘I am still scared of the men who asked me to do it. You are going to be pretty angry if you give someone over a million of pounds’ worth of drugs and they lose them.
‘I worry that something bad might happen to me and my family.’
She also worries about the future. ‘I am going to face barriers now for the rest of my life because of what I did. If I was an employer and someone with my reputation asked for a job, I would be worried.
‘But I hope to show that I have changed and I hope there will be one person that gives me a chance.
‘I want to be able to work and support myself. I also hope to be able to do something in the future to raise awareness and warn other young people not to get involved in drugs.’
Reid adds: ‘I still can’t believe I am free. It doesn’t seem real and it feels like, if I blink and open my eyes again, I will be back in prison.
‘I think it will take quite a lot of time to sink in and for me to readjust. I was 19 when I was arrested and now I’m 22… there is a big gap to cope with.
‘My life will never be the same. I have lost touch with most of my friends but my priorities have changed.
‘I hope that one day I will be able to put this behind me. I am so lucky that I am still young and have a chance to move on.
‘I will never do what I did again. I still can’t believe I am free. It doesn’t seem real and it feels like if I blink and open my eyes again I will be back in prison.
‘I think it will take quite a lot of time to sink in and for me to readjust to normal life. I was 19 when I was arrested and now I’m 22… there is a big gap to come to terms with.
‘The weird thing is that while I have been in prison in Peru for three years, now that I am home with my family again it feels so normal.’