Two women arrested on suspicion of trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5m out of Peru have been formally charged, prosecutors have said.

Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid, both 20, were moved to a detention centre in Lima after appearing before the District Prosecutor on Tuesday.

The women face a maximum prison sentence of 15 years if convicted, the prosecutor’s office in Callao added.

McCollum Connolly and Reid were detained in Lima last week, accused of trying to smuggle millions of dollars-worth of cocaine into Europe.

The two women have protested their innocence, saying they were forced to carry items in their luggage at gunpoint.

Michaella McCollum
Michaella McCollum is led away from a police station

Peruvian officials say the women were en route to Madrid and Majorca on August 6 when airport officials discovered almost 12kgs (26lbs) of cocaine hidden inside food packages in their luggage.

The cocaine was said to have a street value of some $2m (£639,000).

They will eventually be taken to the high security women’s prison Ancon 2, north of Lima.

Sky News was given rare access to the prison, which is situated in the desert.

Inside, Sarah, a mother-of-two from Croydon, in south London, is serving a six-year sentence for trying to smuggle cocaine into Spain.

Handout picture showing food packages seized by police, containing cocaine and found in the luggage of Belfast resident Michaella McCollum Connolly and British citizen Melissa Reid, lay on a table at the airport in Lima
Police said cocaine was found inside packets of food in their luggage

Speaking to Sky News she said: “To tell you the truth, to me, all the time that I’ve been here, it’s like being in the Devil’s House.

“You don’t know when you’re gonna leave this place, for those girls, caught with so much, they could spend a long time here.”

Commenting on the women’s current condition in custody, Peter Madden, the lawyer for McCollum Connolly said: “They’re both in a holding cell, there are two other women there, but they haven’t gotten anything to eat today.

“They haven’t been offered any food and to me that is unacceptable. The conditions inside the holding cells are pretty grim.

“They are expected to lie almost on the floor, there is a sort of sponge-type bed which is just not acceptable, there are no blankets, it’s not clean, and the most important thing is that they haven’t actually been offered any food today, and it didn’t look as if they were going to be.”