Loved ones of a Chester man and five other Brits jailed in India for weapons offences are hoping the ex-soldiers will be back home for Christmas after spending four years behind bars.
Ray Tindall, 42, from Newton, and colleagues were working aboard anti-piracy vessel MV Seaman Guard Ohio when it was impounded by the Indian authorities on October 12, 2013.
Accused of illegally possessing weapons, the security guards were later jailed for five years having protested their innocence from the start.
The whole saga has been full of twists and turns with many false dawns.
Having waited months for the outcome of an appeal there was a hitch when the judge decided it must be heard again. But now The Chronicle understands the Supreme Court of India has ruled the men must hear the result of their appeal by the end of the month meaning a decision could come at any time.
Ex-Army sniper Ray Tindall must be desperate to be reunited with his loved ones including his young daughter who lives in Chester with his ex-wife. And Chester MP Chris Matheson has pleaded with foreign office ministers to phone their opposite numbers in India in a bid to hasten the release of his constituent from Puzhal jail in Chennai.
Mark Field, the UK’s minister for Asia, visited the so-called Chennai Six in prison on October 4.
He said in a statement afterwards: “These men have been separated from their families for four years and have had an incredibly difficult experience. They are adamant that they are innocent of the crime they are in prison for.
“I wanted to meet with them personally to give them my assurance that we are still doing everything we can to help them.
“It is not for us to tell India’s independent justice system what to do, we cannot and should not, but we can make clear the importance we place on this case.
“That is why the Prime Minister raised it with Indian Prime Minister Modi during the G20 summit earlier this year and the Foreign Secretary raised it with his Indian counterpart in July.
“I have raised it again here with senior figures in Tamil Nadu state and with the Indian Government.
“Foreign Office consular staff are in regular contact with the men and their families and will continue to work hard on their behalf.”
It was in January 2016 that all 35 sailors and guards aboard MV Seaman Guard Ohio received five-year sentences and were ordered to pay 3,000 rupees (£30).
The six Brits involved are Ray Tindall, from Chester, Billy Irving, from Connel, Argyll and Bute, Nick Dunn, from Ashington, Northumberland, Paul Towers, from Pocklington, John Armstrong, from Wigton, Cumbria, and Nicholas Simpson, from Catterick, North Yorkshire.