North East pirate hunter Nick Dunn has spoken for the first time about his “six-month waking nightmare” at the hands of Indian jail authorities.
The 28-year-old from Ashington admits he is struggling to adjust to life on the outside, three days after he was released from the Indian prison where he had been held for half a year awaiting trial after being accused of weapons offences.
After being released on bail, Nick and 32 of the 34 other men he was arrested with are now subject to strict conditions and must remain in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Chennai as they await their next court appearance.
Last night the former soldier told The Journal how he had “endured hell” and that his life will never be the same again.
“I can’t describe how I’m feeling now,” he said. “One minute I was doing my job and the next thing I know I’m spending six months in an Indian prison for a crime I didn’t commit.”
He claimed: “No questions were asked of me when I was arrested. The authorities just thrust bits of paper in my face, shouting at me and telling me to sign. I had no idea what they were telling me because they didn’t speak a word of English.
“The prison conditions were hell on earth. We had rats and poisonous snakes in our cells and I lived in constant fear that I’d get bitten. If I did, I would have died because none of the guards would have known what was wrong with me.
“There were three of us in a cell and we had one blanket and a sheet to share between us. No mattress, just a stone floor to sleep on. Until I reached the hotel I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in six months.
“Temperatures were as high as 40 degrees but the prison staff kept the fans switched off to save on electricity. I felt like an ant being burned beneath a magnifying glass. We were like animals being tortured.
“We had to share water and it was filthy. Many of the lads got dysentery and had to go to hospital to be put on a drip. We had one meal a day and sometimes that would be just 10 eggs and some sliced tomatoes between all of us. I’ve lost more than two stone while in prison. I also turned 28 in prison, but that’s a birthday I never want to remember.”
Nick has been held with the other men after what they thought was a routine paperwork check on their security vessel Seaman Guard Ohio led to them all being arrested for illegal possession of weapons.
Their company Advan-Fort has always insisted the men were to provide protection to other ships from pirate attacks, but the Indian courts have pressed weapons charges.
Last month Nick’s sister Lisa went to Downing Street to hand in a 147,000-name petition to David Cameron calling for help with his release.
On Saturday the men were finally released on bail but one of the conditions is they can’t leave the country. They can only return to the UK if charges against them are dropped.
Nick says the one thing that has kept him going for the past six months is the thought of seeing his family again.
He said: “I was taken aside by the prison guard five days before Christmas Day and told my mam had been rushed to hospital for brain surgery.
“I felt like my world had crashed down around me. She’s just been released from hospital and the day I get home she’s getting a huge bunch of flowers. She is my inspiration and speaking to her on the phone for the first time in six months was the best feeling in the world.”
The former paratrooper is now waiting for a hearing date which he has been told could happen within the next month.
The remaining two guards who have not yet been released are the captain and crew leader of the ship.