AN army sniper turned sausage maker from Chester is being imprisoned in India.
Ray Tindall, from Newton, an award-winning sausage maker, is among the crew of an anti-pirate patrol vessel who have been behind bars in the city of Chennai since October.
Mr Tindall, 38, was one of six British ex-soldiers on the crew of the US-owned vessel, involved in supporting anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, who were arrested in October last year.
Since the crew's arrest for allegedly carrying weapons illegally and straying into Indian waters, they have languished in an Indian jail, with their plight now gaining attention at the highest level of politics, with Prime Minister David Cameron and Indian PM Manmohan Singh having discussed the situation.
More than 77,000 people have signed a petition calling on Foreign Secretary William Hague to help free the six British ex-soldiers, whose vessel was helping protect commercial shipping vulnerable to hijackers in pirate-infested waters.
The patrol vessel MV Seaman Guard Ohio, operated by US maritime security firm AdvanFort, was intercepted by a heavily-armed Indian coastguard vessel in the Indian Ocean when heading for Egypt.
In a previous statement AdvanFort president William Watson said: “These guys are decorated military veterans. They're brave, honest men who spend months away from their families to protect ships from pirates and this is how they're being treated.”
A Foreign Office spokesman confirmed Mr Tindall is among six British nationals from the MV Seaman Guard Ohio imprisoned in India.
Mr Tindall, who lives in Newton with his wife Faith and young daughter Lyra, established Faraly’s Fine Produce after calling time on his 17-year career with the army, during which time he saw action in war zones such as Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq.
A statement on the Faraly’s website says: “Apologies but Faraly's has temporarily ceased trading.”
During his time in the army, Ray was stationed with two different regiments, the First Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, and latterly the First Battalion Royal Welsh, based at the Dale Barracks in Chester.
Chester MP Stephen Mosley said: "In October Ray Tindall of Chester was detained by the Indian authorities while working on a maritime security operation in the Indian Ocean. Everyone will appreciate that this has been an extremely distressing time for Ray’s family and our thoughts and best wishes should be with them throughout this challenging time.
“I have met with Ray’s family and raised Ray’s detention with ministers and the Foreign Office. Both the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have raised this case with their Indian counterparts and I will soon be meeting the Indian High Commissioner to raise this issue directly.
“The British Consul is regularly meeting Ray and his colleagues and is doing all it can to look after their best interests. I will continue to monitor this case closely and hope for Ray’s safe return home soon.”
The partner of one of the British crewmen has launched an online petition urging Foreign Secretary William Hague to take action to free the men.
The petition says: “They have risked their lives serving our country and need the British Government's help to be released from an Indian prison where they are being detained unlawfully.
“These men have devoted their lives to protecting others, working in the Indian Ocean on anti-piracy operations. The men were resting on board the support vessel in between transits from client vessels to which they protect from pirate attacks.
“They have had their freedom and human rights taken away from them, this is an injustice and the British Government must step in to have the men released.”
You can visit change.org to sign the petition.