Warm welcome for first of ‘Chennai Six’ to return to Britain

Billy Irving from Connel, Argyll,  one of the so-called Chennai Six as he arrives at Glasgow Airport after being released from India after serving four years in jail on weapons charges.
Billy Irving from Connel, Argyll, one of the so-called Chennai Six as he arrives at Glasgow Airport after being released from India after serving four years in jail on weapons charges.

A former British soldier has said it “feels excellent to be home” as the first of the ‘Chennai Six’ arrived back in the UK, more than four years after they were jailed in India on weapons charges.

Billy Irving was greeted by family and two bagpipers after touching down at Glasgow Airport on Wednesday to be home in time for Christmas.

He and five other British men had been guards on a ship to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean but were jailed in October 2013 after being charged with carrying unlicensed firearms and ammunition.

After years of campaigning, they won an appeal against their convictions last week.

Mr Irving was hugged in the airport arrivals hall by family members who had made signs reading “Welcome home Billy”.

He stopped briefly to speak to the media and expressed thanks to those who had campaigned for his release.

Mr Irving, from Argyll and Bute, said: “I’d just like to give a massive thank you to everyone who supported all of the Chennai Six, all of the 35 men throughout.

“I just want to thank everyone, they’ve been so kind. Thank you for your support, thank you so much. It feels excellent to be home.”

Two pipers played outside the terminal to welcome the 37-year-old.

The other five men – Nick Dunn, John Armstrong, Nicholas Simpson, Ray Tindall and Paul Towers – are expected to arrive in the UK on Thursday.