Sunday, 5 December 2021

Indian horror over for pirate hunter Billy

Billy Irving

CHENNAI: Yvonne MacHugh has been fighting for four years to get Mr Irving home, since he was arrested with colleagues while working as security guard on ships to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean.

The 37-year-old and five other former British soldiers – known as the Chennai Six – jailed on weapons charges and finally found not guilty on appeal yesterday.

It is now hoped he will get home to Connel, near Oban, in time to celebrate Christmas with Miss MacHugh and his two-year-old son William.

Miss MacHugh said she wants to get married as soon as possible, and have her son christened.

Describing herself as “absolutely over the moon and just so relieved” following news of the appeal, she said: “I still can’t believe it.

“I am so relieved that after four years of fighting this we have finally won.

“To finally have the news that they are innocent and will be free is a dream come true.”

A post on the Chennai Six Facebook page yesterday morning said: “The Appeal Court has today found all 35 men not guilty and acquitted them. We now wait to hear as and when the men will be allowed home to their families.

Billy Irving 1

“This may take some time due to paperwork but the men’s release from prison is imminent. But the families are understandably delighted that finally common sense and justice has prevailed.”

Miss MacHugh was doing a BBC radio interview and was live on air when she received a text from a friend in India telling her of the court’s decision.

She said: “It is just so amazing, I can’t even describe the feeling. I can’t believe we don’t need to fight any more. We can relax, enjoy life, get to know each other again. Billy can get to know his son. We can be a family finally.”

She hopes he will be home as soon as possible but really has “no idea”.

She said: “I just hope they can put measures in place as soon as possible.”

When asked what was next for the family, Miss MacHugh replied: “Get married is number one. Get William christened and just be a family.”

The charges were initially quashed when the men argued the weapons were lawfully held for anti-piracy purposes.

But a lower court reinstated the prosecution and they were convicted in January last year and sentenced to five years in jail.

Billy Irving 2

A judge yesterday ruled that all charges against the men be dropped with immediate effect, and the fines they were ordered to pay be refunded.

Brendan O’Hara, MP for Argyll and Bute, said last night: “I am thrilled to hear that Billy will finally be home for Christmas, a conclusion to this injustice has been long overdue”.

“This whole period has been immensely stressful for all the families of the Chennai Six.

“But today is a day of victory for those families who have done some incredible work to keep the momentum of this case going. But I particularly want to pay tribute to Yvonne MacHugh who has been an inspiration individual and has never relented.

“I am delighted and I look forward to hearing that Billy is finally on a plane home to be with his family again”.

Theresa May’s official spokesman said: “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.”

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: “This case has been a top priority for everybody at the Foreign Office and today’s verdict is fantastic news.

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