Downing Street petition to free Chennai Six

Four of the Chennai 6 -Billy, Ray, Nick and John
Four of the Chennai 6 -Billy, Ray, Nick and John

Relatives of the British war heroes wrongly imprisoned in India are marking the fourth anniversary of their arrest by stepping up the campaign to free them.

The families will be lobbying MPs on Thursday, 12th October, and will also hand in a petition to 10 Downing Street demanding the Government do more to secure their release.

The men were working on an anti-piracy vessel to protect shipping from Somalian pirates in 2013 when they were detained by the Indian coastguard which accused them of carrying firearms without permits.

Their paperwork – issued by the British Government – was in order yet a judge still convicted them and sentenced them in 2016 to five years in a violent, overcrowded prison.

The Chennai Six are: John Armstrong, 30, of Wigton, Cumbria, a former member of 3 Para; Nick Dunn, 31, of Ashington, Northumberland, a former member of 1 Para; Billy Irving, 37, of Oban, Scotland, a former member of 1 Para; Nicholas Simpson, 47, of Catterick, North Yorkshire, a former Sergeant Major in the 1st Battalion Yorkshire Regiment; Ray Tindall, 42, of Chester, who served with the 1st Battalion Yorkshire Regiment and the Welsh Guards; Paul Towers, 54, of Pocklington, East Yorkshire, a former member of 1 Para.

The campaign to overturn this appalling miscarriage of justice has had the support of Prince Charles, Prince Harry, actress Joanna Lumley, the cast of TV soap Emmerdale and Coronation Street legends Charlie Lawson (who played Jim McDonald) and Simon Gregson (Steve McDonald).

Emmerdale actor John Bowe, who plays Lawrence White, said: “This is a monumental cock-up – a tragic misunderstanding by the Indian authorities.”

MPs from all the men’s constituencies will be present at the lobby along with family members.  Billy Irving’s son William, aged two, who he is yet to spend a day at home with, and John Armstrong’s nephew Josh Thomlinson, aged five, who has not seen his uncle in over four years, will deliver the petition containing 405,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street.