Pirate hunter Billy faces ‘home for Christmas’ release decision

Billy with Yvonne and their son William - as pictured several years ago
Billy with Yvonne and their son William - as pictured several years ago

The partner of an East Renfrewshire man who has languished in an Indian jail since 2013 is praying he may finally be freed tomorrow.

But Yvonne McHugh, of Neilston, reportedly says Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has done “nothing” to help former soldier Billy Irving and other men imprisoned on arms charges.

The couple’s nightmare began when Indian authorities in the state of Chennai arrested Billy, originally from North Connel, near Oban, along with the entire crew of a ship which was fighting piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Repeated claims that the men are completely innocent of any wrongdoing have been ignored, while tortuous legal proceedings the men’s families regard as an affront to justice have continued.

Many politicians across Britain have appealed for action on their behalf - including East Renfrewshire MP Paul Masteron - with no success.

Support has also come from celebrities including actor Tom Hanks, star of the movie Captain Phillips - about a ship hijacked by Somali pirates.

However despite the Indian authorities’ refusal to budge on the issue for four years the Ukrainian captain of the pirate-hunting vessel was finally released after a hearing on November 20.

Hopes are high that a further hearing tomorrow could see the release of the remaining captives.

According to the Sunday Times the families of the six British Army veterans still awaiting release have slammed Boris Johnson for allegedly repeating the same wording used in his promise to the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been a prisoner in Iran for nearly two years - and now faces a new trial.

Reports suggest that the lengthy appeals process the relatives hope will end with charges against the men finally quashed must be resolved before Christmas.

With the captain already freed it’s argued there is no remaining excuse for the other men not to be liberated.

Relatives now hope that if their prayers are answered tomorrow the Foreign Office will take immediate and decisive action to secure exit visas for Billy and his colleagues.