LISTEN: 'Chennai Six' await news of release after Appeal Court acquittal

27 November 2017, 13:37 | Updated: 27 November 2017, 14:00

The Chennai Six

Six former soldiers jailed in India over weapons charges are expected to be released after they were all acquitted.

The British men, know as the Chennai Six, were first jailed in October 2013 while working as security guards on a ship to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean.

They were part of a group of 35 who were arrested on board the ship.  

A post on "The Chennai 6" Facebook page said families were "understandably delighted" at the news.

They are now waiting to hear when they will be allowed home from India to their families.

The post said: "The Appeal Court has today found all 35 men not guilty. We now wait to hear as and when the men will be allowed home to their families.

"This may take some time whilst the authorities decide whether they agree with the outcome or wish to appeal.

"If they wish to appeal the men might be released from prison but not allowed back to the UK.

"But the families are delighted that finally common sense and justice has prevailed."

Customs officials initially boarded the vessel and were said to have found 35 guns and almost 6000 rounds of ammunition.

Charges against the British men were dropped but they were forced to remain in India while prosecutors pursued an appeal.

The men were Billy Irving, 37, from Argyll and Bute, Nick Dunn, 31, of Northumberland, John Armstrong, 30, of Wigton, Cumbria, Nicholas Simpson, 47, of Catterick, North Yorkshire, Ray Tindall, 42, of Chester, and Paul Towers, 54, of Pocklington, East Yorkshire.

Yvonne McHugh, partner of Billy Irving, said she was "over the moon" the men had been acquitted.

She added: "We are just waiting to hear how soon they'll be home.

"That's the biggest hurdle we faced and all of them have been acquitted."

Although the men have been cleared, Ms McHugh said she would be unable to speak to Mr Irving as he is not yet out of prison and does not have a phone.

She said: "I won't be able to speak to him until he's out of prison, we just want them home as soon as possible.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic and feel proud we've managed to do this after four years."

The family of Nick Dunn, from Ashington, Northumberland, gathered together as they waited to hear if the news was good.

Sipping champagne, his sister, Lisa, said: "This is the best champagne in the world, it tastes like the best drink.

"The longer it went on, as much as you still have an element of hope, it does dwindle after having so many delays and setbacks.

"But that hasn't happened today and we've had the best news ever.

"It will make all of our Christmases, all of our dreams have come true today."

Mr Dunn's father, Jim, said: "Absolutely fantastic, the best news in the world.

"We haven't been a full family for a long time now. Nick won't fully realise it's over until his feet touch down in Newcastle."

News of their acquittal reached Downing Street which said it will continue to offer consular assistance to the men.

Theresa May's official spokesman said: "The Government, from the Prime Minister down, has worked hard for over four years to support the men and their families and we share their happiness at the court's decision to give a full acquittal to each of the men.

"We are now working with the Indian authorities to discuss the next steps. We will continue to offer the men and their families consular assistance for as long as it is needed.