THE fiancee of a Scot imprisoned in India on firearms offences has raised fears for his life, after his fellow inmate was viciously attacked by medical staff and forced into a mental hospital.

Billy Irving, 37, from Connel, Argyll and Bute, and five other British anti-piracy security guards were jailed for five years last January for possession of illegal weapons after they were arrested while aboard the ship MV Seaman Guard Ohio.

They and nearly 30 others on the ship were detained after the vessel strayed into Indian waters without permission in October, 2012 - despite papers that confirmed their weapons were held legally.

Now Mr Irving’s partner Yvonne MacHugh has told of her concerns for the safety of the men after John Armstrong – one of the so-called Chennai Six – was set upon by around 15 guards and inmates, punched and strangled by the hospital staff, tied to a bed and forcibly injected with a powerful sedative.


When he woke the next day he was still tied to the bed and was attached to a drip which was medicating him with an unknown drug.

He was then forced to take powerful anti-psychotic drugs even though there was nothing wrong with him.

Ms MacHugh, from Neilston, Renfrewshire, spoke of the horror of conditions in Puzhal Prison, near Chennai, having visited Mr Irving three weeks ago, and said Mr Armstrong was set upon merely because he liked to keep himself occupied by reading and doing exercise, which was seen as odd behaviour.

"So it is a huge fear that at any moment they can just say, you are psychotic just like that. Men shouldn't be getting beaten up and just left tied to a bed and on a drip. It's really horrific and we were all really shaken up when we heard about it, because if they can do that to one man who we all know was fine and of sound mind it can happen to them all.

"We are quite scared that it will happen again and the Foreign Office have really done nothing about it."


A formal complaint has been made to the Indian government by the Foreign Office but Ms MacHugh said "that really is not good enough".

"They should be ensuring that these men are safe and that nothing like that happens to them ever again," she said. It shouldn't have happened in the first place and I don't see how they could have been allowed to get away with doing such a terrible act to somebody. Their lives are at risk."

Ms MacHugh is concerned the men's human rights are being violated without any positive intervention by the Foreign Office.

She witnessed cells strewn with faeces and soaked with urine, and the men have to buy their own clean water to drink.

"It's disgusting. The smell is putrid, when you walk in it's absolutely disgusting," she said.


A bucket of water is provided for washing themselves and their clothes, but it not fit for drinking.

The men's toilet is a hole in the cell floor which they have to sleep beside on the floor.

Mr Irving has said the kitchen, in which they are allowed to cook once a week, is crawling with rats, cockroaches and maggots, and told his fiancee that he had "never been anywhere as disgusting in his life".

The 28-year-old talks of a board in the jailer's office which lists the numbers of prisoners who are HIV positive, have hepititis and leprosy and raised concerns of disease spread and that despite constant appeals during the men's year-and-half behind bars the men have still to be allowed an independent medical.

She says the family of the Ukranian captain of the ship needed to go to court to allow him to have treatment for terminal cancer, and despairs that he is not allowed home to "die with dignity".

"It beggars belief that they would treat people like this, and that we as a country are allowing them to be treated like this. It's disgusting," she said. "They [the Foreign Office] only seem to believe what the prison tell them, instead of looking after their own. I just don't understand it.

"Every day, when I tell people about it, they think I am making it up, that it cannot be happening. But it is."

Without care packages sent from Britain by well-wishers, containing vital supplies such as protein bars, vitamins, tuna packets, packets of pasta and sauce, toothpaste and toilet rolls, she would fear the worst.

"If it wasn't for the money we are putting in their prison accounts, they wouldn't have the money to buy clean water, which is why Billy ended up in hospital with dysentery when they were first is prison. He lost over four stone in 2014. "We didn't know he wasn't getting clean water and that they could buy it."

The detained men were all working for the US maritime security firm AdvanFort providing anti-piracy protection in the Indian Ocean when their ship was detained.

Once they boarded the vessel, Indian customs officials and police found 35 guns, including semi-automatic weapons, and almost 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

The ship had 10 crew members, of whom eight were Indians and two Ukrainians, and 25 security guards – six British, 14 Estonian, four Indians and one Ukrainian.


The prisoners were held for six months before the charges were inexplicably dropped. But Mr Irving was prohibited from returning home until the conclusion of a police appeal which eventually led to the men being jailed.

It is claimed licences produced to Indian courts authorised the export of arms and other equipment, which included semi-automatic assault rifles to the US maritime security firm AdvanFort, for whom Mr Irving was working.

One lawyer said in January, last year he believed that by March the judgement of the court would be reversed in an appeal. But the results of any appeal are still being awaited over a year later.

In the four years since the arrest, Mr Irving has lost his home at Connel, near Oban, been held in squalid conditions in prison, become a father and got engaged.

Ms Irving said: "They have been in there over a year-and-a-half. And still to this day I can't get over the fact there is nothing anyone in our government can do, and I don't believe it."

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office responded to the criticisms repeating what it has said previously that staff in India have been "providing support to all six men since their arrest and were working to make sure their welfare is protected" in prison. And that they were in regular contact with the families.

An FCO spokesman added:“We take all allegations of torture or mistreatment very seriously. When an issue is raised, if the individual consents, we will always urgently request a full and independent investigation be put in place by the local authorities and closely monitor the situation. 

“We recognise what a difficult time this is for those involved and we have taken significant action on this case.”