Cumbrian soldier should never have been on ship raided in India


A former Paratrooper serving a five-year jail sentence in India should never have been overseas in the first place, his sister has revealed.

John Armstrong, from Wigton, was working as an armed security guard for an anti-piracy ship at the time of his arrest in October 2013.

Despite having all the correct paperwork - issued by the British Government - he was one of 35 men arrested on board the Seaman Guard Ohio, and eventually convicted of illegally possessing firearms in Indian waters.

Speaking in a video about her brother, released as part of a series which will run at events throughout London International Shipping Week from today, Joanne Thomlinson revealed John should have been on leave.

He’d only been home for two days when the company got back in touch and said ‘we’re short-staffed, we’d like you to come back out’

“It came out of the blue when John told us he was going to join the army,” she recalled. “One day he came home and said he’d been to the army office and decided to sign up to the Parachute Regiment.

“He stayed in the army for four years, and served in Afghanistan. After four years he decided he wanted a new challenge, and that’s when he moved on to maritime security.

“He worked for AdvanFort as his first company. He did three months with them, that was his first transit, and was then supposed to have a month off.”

Joanne continued: “He’d only been home for two days when the company got back in touch and said ‘we’re short-staffed, we’d like you to come back out’.

“He decided it would mean he’d then have a month off at Christmas, which would be perfect time to be at home with the family… and so off he went to do his transit.

“I know that’s a decision he’s regretted ever since.”

The video is part of a continued campaign by Joanne, 32, from Blennerhasset, who has joined forces with the families of the five other Britons in prison - collectively known as the Chennai 6 - to fight for their freedom.

They spent six months in prison after their initial arrest, before being released and all the charges were quashed. However, they were kept in India, unable to return home, until an appeal against the quashing of the charges was held.

In September 2015 the men stood trial, and they were convicted in January 2015 - but have protested their innocence every day since.

They have appealed their conviction and sentence, but have now been waiting nine months for the judge to release the verdict.

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