The defence lawyer of Michaella McCollum Connolly, the Co Tyrone woman accused of drug smuggling in Peru, has said that his client was duped.

McCollum Connolly, 20, is expected to appear in court in Lima later on Tuesday to be formally charged along with her co-accused Melissa Reid, also 20 and from Scotland.

They have already spent two weeks in custody suspected of attempting to smuggle 11kg of cocaine worth £1.5million.

Both deny the allegations and claim they were forced at gunpoint to make the journey from the Spanish holiday island of Ibiza, where they had been working in bars, after being befriended by a man from London.

Defence lawyer Peter Madden said that “it looks as if they were set up, they were duped, they were held, at gunpoint, forced to do this, possibly to let a bigger shipment through at the airport.

“Someone told me that that was a theory that they are going on, that that is what happened here.”

He continued, saying that there was speculation that possibly the women were used as a sort of a decoy or a diversion.

In a later interview, Mr Madden criticised media reports which alleged that his client owed money to a drugs dealer.

“Michaella McCollum did not owe any money to any drugs dealer. She was not and is not involved in the drugs trade.

“She has no criminal record, has never been in trouble with the police in her life. She was not seen on video carrying drugs as was alleged in one newspaper. She was carrying her handbag and it was pretty obvious that it wasn’t drugs, but that was the report. She was not out shopping in Lima and spending a lot of money. That didn’t happen,” he added.

Ms McCollum Connolly’s family in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, had at first launched a major online missing person campaign after she had not been heard from in 12 days.

However, it later emerged that the women had been detained at the airport in Lima boarding a plane bound for Madrid.

Colonel Julio Vera, head of Peru’s drug police, explained how the women were arrested.

“The intervention was made at the check-in desk, our officers noticed they were nervous. It was the way they arrived, they were alone, the type of luggage they were carrying,” he said.

“The first thing our personnel did was to make an intervention and ask them for their identification, after that they asked them to ask them to identify their baggage and that’s when they found the drugs.”

If the pair are charged – the women could face up to three years in prison before a trial and if convicted, they could face lengthy sentences in an overcrowded Peruvian prison.