Bring Billy home Mr Cameron

Heart­felt plea from young mum made to Prime Min­is­ter

The Oban Times - - Front Page - LOUISE GLEN lglen@oban­

A HEART­FELT plea by a young mum to get her part­ner home for Christ­mas has re­ceived mes­sages of sup­port from more than 150,000 peo­ple across the globe.

Con­nel man Billy Irv­ing, 34, has been in In­dia since Oc­to­ber 2013 af­ter he and fel­low MV Sea­man Guard Ohio crew mem­bers were ac­cused of car­ry­ing il­le­gal weapons when they en­tered In­dian waters as part of anti-piracy op­er­a­tions and ar­rested. All charges against him and his col­leagues were later dropped and court dates promised to re­solve the sit­u­a­tion.

But two years on, the men are still stranded in In­dia.

Now Billy’s part­ner Yvonne Machugh has ap­pealed to Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron to dis­cuss the case with the In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi when he meets him this week for high level talks.

Ms Machugh, the mother of Billy’s child, said: ‘It breaks my heart to say that more than two years later those six men re­main in In­dia and the Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment still have not helped them.

‘Th­ese men are our broth­ers, sons and part­ners. They have risked their lives serv­ing our coun­try in the Bri­tish Army, and now need the Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment’s help to be re­turned home to their fam­ily and friends in or­der to be able to live again.

‘The men spent six months in an In­dian prison and faced hor­rific con­di­tions – poor san­i­ta­tion, un­der nour­ish­ment and ill­ness. They were cut off from fam­ily and had no con­tact with them. Then in April 2014 they were fi­nally re­leased on bail.’

Yvonne con­tin­ued: ‘I was there to meet Billy out­side Puzhal Prison gates on the day he and the other men were re­leased. It was a huge relief for all the men and their fam­i­lies to fi­nally be out of prison, but they still had a long way to go.

‘Bail con­di­tions meant the men had to at­tend the po­lice sta­tion twice a day to show they were present. They were un­able to leave In­dia. They were re­ceiv­ing no wages from their em­ployer and with­out a visa they were un­able to work.

‘So you can imag­ine the ela­tion when all charges were dropped in July 2014. Ev­ery­one cel­e­brated and we all looked for­ward to the home com­ing. I re­turned home to Scot­land to dis­cover I was ex­pect­ing our first child, and for once it seemed like every­thing would be OK. This wasn’t the case. On Au­gust 26 an ap­peal against the quash­ing of charges was filed.

‘The men had asked the For­eign and Com­mon­wealth Of­fice (FCO) and the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment for help to get the rel­e­vant doc­u­ments and their be­long­ings back from the In­dian po­lice and to re­turn home.’

But help was not forth­com­ing.

On April 28, eight months af­ter the ap­peal had been sub­mit­ted the supreme court fi­nally heard the case. On the July 1 this year, the Supreme Court ruled that the case had to be sent back to the orig­i­nal court where the trial took place – to be heard in full.

Now Yvonne is hop­ing David Cameron will step in to help.

She said: ‘The In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Mr Modi will be in the UK to­mor­row [ Novem­ber 13]. The fam­i­lies have pleaded with David Cameron to raise this case with him. Down­ing Street has replied, ‘it is on the agenda but we can­not guar­an­tee it will be raised’.’

A spokesper­son for Mr Cameron con­firmed the mat­ter was on the agenda, but would not con­firm whether it would be dis­cussed.

A fund­ing page to help with the men’s ac­com­mo­da­tion, le­gal fees and sur­vival in In­dia can be found at http://goget­fund­

Billy Irv­ing has only met his son once, now his part­ner Yvonne Machugh is fight­ing to bring him home in time for Christ­mas.

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