THE Chester public are being urged to sign a petition to help secure the release of a Newton man who has been locked up in an Indian jail since last October.
Ray Tindall, 38, an award-winning sausage-maker and a former army sniper, has been held along with six other men in a jail in the Indian city of Chennai after being arrested while part of a crew of a US-owned anti-pirate patrol vessel.
Mr Tindall, who runs Faralys Fine Produce, has seen his plight recognised at the highest level of world politics, with Prime Minister David Cameron and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh having discussed the situation of the men.
Now, a friend and business associate of Mr Tindall, Huw Rowlands, has expressed his shock at the situation and urged people to sign a national petition to free the men, which has now attracted more than 90,000 signatures.
“I have known Ray for quite a while through farming as he used to supply us with sausages. I was shocked at the news,” said Mr Rowlands, who rears Red Poll cattle from the Grange Farm in Warrington Road, Mickle Trafford.
“It was all sorts of feelings when I found out about it. I was upset by it and upset at the fact that nobody had heard about it. It was a surprise to a lot of people.
“Ray has always struck me as a very hard-working and dedicated man, very loyal and mentally tough.
“Hopefully the mental toughness he has will have served him well throughout his ordeal.”
Mr Tindall, who is married to wife Faith and has a young daughter, Lyra, was arrested with the crew for allegedly carrying weapons illegally and straying into Indian waters without informing the relevant authorities while working for US security firm AdvanFort.
The patrol vessel MV Seaman Guard Ohio had been helping to protect commercial shipping vulnerable to hijackers in pirate-infested waters when it was intercepted by a heavily-armed Indian coastguard vessel in the Indian Ocean when heading for Egypt.
Mr Tindall had set up his sausage-making business alongside his wife after calling time on his 17-year army career, during which time he saw active combat in such places as Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq.
Mr Rowlands added: “I, along with many others, have signed a petition calling for Ray’s release and I urge others to do the same.
“We’re all just wishing him well and just want him to be release quickly and be able to return home to his family.”
Chester MP Stephen Mosley has been in contact with Mr Tindall’s family throughout and has raised the issue with the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Speaking previously, Mr Mosley, said: “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.
“It has been raised with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and they have both raised it with the counterparts in India.
“The difficulty is that they’ve been told the judicial responsibility is down to individual states.
“What we have been told is the Minister of Interior officers in India have been in frequent contact with the state [in Chennai].”