HE may have been in one of India’s most notorious jails for the past four years - but as a “strong Yorkshireman” Ray Tindall is looking forward and not back.
Ex-Army sniper Ray, a former sergeant with The 1st Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, returned home to Chester to be reunited with his daughter, who was just four when he left home and a grandson he has never met.
One of the so-called Chennai 6, Mr Tindall, originally from Hull, was jailed with two other former servicemen from Yorkshire, Paul Towers, from Pocklington, and Nicholas Simpson, from Catterick, North Yorkshire, along with Nick Dunn, Billy Irving and John Armstrong, in India in 2013, on charges of carrying unlicensed firearms and ammunition.
The men, who had been guards on an anti-piracy ship in the Indian Ocean, finally have finally arrived home, after winning an appeal against their convictions after years of campaigning.
Mr Tindall told the BBC today he had run more than 7,600 miles while in jail. He said: “I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been. In one way it’s made me a better person.
“I won’t ever get the four years back so there is no point looking to the past.”
Mr Tindall, who was medically discharged from the Army in 2013 for hearing loss associated with weapons fire, had established himself as a prize-winning butcher before taking the job with US firm AdvanFort.
Also back home in Yorkshire was former member of the Parachute Regiment Paul Towers. On the Facebook page Free The Beard, set up by son Jordan, a friend posted this afternoon: “As I type this message I must confess to having tears in my eyes.
“On behalf of Paul, Ann and Jordan, I want to extend a huge thank you to each and every one of you for providing them with love and support during the last four years.
“There aren’t the words to express how much this has meant to them as a family.”
He said the family would need space and privacy over the coming weeks, adding: “I am sure you will join me here in sending them our love. Christmas has just come early.”
Mr Dunn, meanwhile, wept as he embraced his waiting family at Newcastle Airport after touching down on British soil.
Surrounded by supporters, Mr Dunn said he was “the happiest man alive.”
He said: “Words can’t describe how I feel, I’m on cloud nine and it’s all down to my sister, she’s made this possible.
“I’ve been quite calm, I hadn’t been anticipating being this calm, it wasn’t until I came through the door there that it hit me.”
Mr Dunn said getting back to see his mother Margaret had been his priority. She was at the airport along with his sister Lisa, brother Paul and father Jim.
He said he’d never take simple things for granted again - and was looking forward to a bubble bath and a steak.
“Seeing them felt amazing, it felt like my heart had melted,” he said. So much is down to my amazing sister. She kept me going for four years, writing in her letters keep going, keep going, keep going.
“It’s four Christmases rolled into one, I have missed four of them so I am going to have the best Christmas ever.
“I would always visualise walking through those doors but today is nothing like that at all. I’m just overwhelmed, ecstatic, I’m the happiest man alive.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson welcomed their return.
Speaking on Wednesday he said: “I pay tribute to those who have campaigned for the men, who will be delighted to see them return home after being separated for so long.”