Chester man Ray Tindall and five other Brits have this morning been released from an Indian prison after being acquitted of weapons charges.
The Chennai Six’walked out of the vast Puzhal Central Prison with the British consulate at 11.30 local time (6am UK time) after a saga that has lasted four years.
They waved as it is believed the men were then whisked off to the British Embassy where they are expected to stay for several days. One photo showed Mr Tindall, whose young daughter lives with his ex-wife in Chester, in the back of a car wearing a rugby league top and looking tired.
The Chennai Six were arrested while working as anti-piracy guards aboard a ship in the Indian Ocean.
Customs officials and police found 35 guns and almost 6,000 rounds of ammo on the vessel, which they said had not been properly declared.
Ray Tindall, 42, of Newton, Chester, together with Billy Irving, 37, of Argyll and Bute; Nick Dunn, 31, of Northumberland; John Armstrong, 30, of Wigton, Cumbria; Nicholas Simpson, 47, of Catterick, North Yorks and Paul Towers, 54, of Pocklington, East Yorks – always denied the charges, which were initially quashed and then reinstated.
They were sentenced to five years last year but an appeal judge has now said they should be acquitted.
Chester MP Chris Matheson , who has raised Mr Tindall’s case in parliament, is delighted his constituent has been released but remains cautious.
On hearing the news, he said yesterday: “I’m not celebrating yet. There is some administrative and bureaucratic hurdles to overcome but today is a good day. I’m clear about that.”
He added: “The last time he was acquitted the Indian authorities appealed against that acquittal and they ended up with a five year prison sentence. I want those lads on a plane as quickly as possible.”
Mr Matheson has attempted to contact Mr Tindall by text and through foreign office officials but is unsure whether he has received any of the messages. He said Mr Tindall had gone away to sea to raise money to buy a van to expand his cooked meats business when everything went wrong.
Describing what happened as ‘a real injustice’, he continued: “These lads are innocent. They were never involved in any criminal activity, quite the opposite. They were there to uphold the rule of law.
"I have been critical of the British government in the past because I felt they were treating it as a consular case, supporting British people abroad, rather than as a political and as a diplomatic case, putting pressure on the Indian authorities. But that’s for another day. The important thing today is Ray and all the other lads are coming home.”
Mr Matheson was unsure whether his constituent, understood to have separated from his wife who has been raising their daughter, even has a house in Chester any more.
He added: “I’m hoping the community will rally round him and support him in those first few weeks back.”
The six Brits were among a total of 35 sailors and guards aboard MV Seaman Guard Ohio received five-year sentences. All have been acquitted and released.