AN EX-PARATROOPER imprisoned in India has been dealt a crushing blow in his bid to return to his Neilston home.

The family and friends of Billy Irving, 35, had hoped he would be a step closer to being released from a squalid Chennai prison this month.

Billy’s fiancée Yvonne McHugh, 27, is one of hundreds who have campaigned for his and five other anti-piracy seamen’s freedom since 2013 when an Indian court ruled they had strayed into the country’s waters with illegal weapons.

Supporters of the ‘Chennai Six’ published what they claimed were legal UK Government-issued arms licences that proved the prisoners’ innocence.

They had reason to believe their campaign would be justified when an appeal hearing began at the start of this month.

However, the case against the five-year sentences handed to Billy and his fellow MV Seamen Guard Ohio ship seamen will have to be restarted – as the judge who heard the opening proceedings has moved on.

The prisoners’ families were informed of the bizarre turn of events via an email from their lawyers which said the hearing had hit a snag.

Billy’s father Jim shared the email in a post on the ‘Bring Billy Back’ Facebook page.

In a moving status he wrote: “Once again the Indians have destroyed all our hopes, this is what the British Government say is a legal process they cannot intervene in.

“On the face of it all that is required by the Indian courts is to rotate the judges when they feel like it which means we (the men and the families and legal team in India) have to start again in trying to set up a hearing for an Appeal and a Suspension of sentence, only to allow the Public Prosecution not to bother turning up, or the courts to take a holiday, or the judge to be rotated and so on.”

He added: “God knows how the men will deal with this when they are told which will probably be the next time someone from UK visits.

“It is looking to me as if the British and Indian Governments are working on the premise that if they kick us often enough maybe we will go away.”

To keep up-to-date with the latest on Billy’s ongoing situation, search for ‘Bring Billy Back’ on Facebook.