After four years, Billy’s coming home

Billy Irving and Yvonne MacHugh.

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Connel man Billy Irving has been released from an Indian prison after being found not guilty of firearms offences.

He and five other British ex-servicemen, known as the Chennai Six, who were sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in 2016, were released on Monday November 27.

The former paratrooper was working as an armed guard protecting shipping from Somali pirates when he and 34 of his colleagues were arrested in 2013.

They were initially found not guilty of straying into Indian waters with ‘unlicensed weapons’. However, after a lower court appealed the decision, the men were jailed.

After a long appeal process of their own, the 35-strong crew of the MV Seaman Guard Ohio were finally acquitted this week by the appeal court in India.

Billy’s fiancee, Yvonne MacHugh, said: ‘To have Billy phone me this morning, to hear his voice, was just amazing.

‘He said when he was told yesterday, he took it with a pinch of salt and carried on with what he was doing in prison – because they have been told that so many times before. It’s unreal. But he is absolutely over the moon.

‘We are waiting for the certified order to come, which should be with us tomorrow and hopefully get him home within the next week or so.’