Chennai Six: The story of the former soldiers detained in India for four years

Chennai Six: The story of the former soldiers detained in India for four years

The Chennai Six have now left prison

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

It's a story that may have passed you by, given it occurred thousands of miles away and has since been buried by Brexit, Trump, North Korea and the rest.

But it's a truly gripping news story, a four-year tale of hardship and injustice, affecting six men who put their lives on the line for their country.

The Chennai Six are six British men who have been detained in Chennai, India since 2013. Today (November 28) a family member revealed that the group has been acquitted of weapons charges.

Reports claim British consulate officials have taken them from the jail in Chennai where they were being held to the British embassy.

The UK is currently in talks with India about when the men will be able to return home and their families are hoping they will back in Blighty by Christmas.

But how did the men come to spend so long in an Indian jail?

All of the Chennai Six previously worked as soldiers. The six are Nick Dunn, Billy Irving, Paul Towers, John Armstrong, Ray Tindall and Nicholas Simpson, all from different parts of the UK. Four of them had served in the parachute regiment, whilst Tindall and Simpson were part of the Yorkshire Regiment.

In 2013 they were all working for an American company called Advanfort on an anti-piracy vessel called the MV Seaman Guard Ohio in the Indian Ocean.

Their task was to protect commercial ships in the Persian Gulf-Indian Ocean region,following several recent hijackings by armed gangs. However, they allegedly travelled into Indian waters whilst looking for emergency supplies and food, and this prompted Indian officials to board their ship.

It was then that the officials found 35 firearms as well as ammunition which was deemed to be illegal. It was also claimed that the crew were trying to use "subsidised diesel within the Customs Waters", which was thought to amount to hijacking.

The crew argued that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills had approved the weapons and they were working on a legal anti-piracy project.

The UK Government's head of export controls later told the courts in India that the then business secretary Vince Cable had approved licences for the weapons in both 2012 and 2013.

However this wasn't enough for India to release the men, as their agony continued unchecked - until now.

Take a look at what happened to them next in the timeline below