Nick Dunn still remembers the mother’s reaction to the call.
He recalls, “Having to listen to me mam screaming, like a banshee or a wild animal down my telephone really upset me.”
It still bothers me to this day. It’s still raw. It was hard for me to be home with my family. I had to accept what was happening. I am now going to prison for five year for a crime that I have not committed.”
Nick Dunn has experienced one of the worst nightmares.
For a crime that he didn’t commit, he was locked up in a foreign, squalid jail thousands of miles away from his home.
This story has details that may be distressing to some.
“Mam, I love and care about you. Please don’t worry about me”
His mother had just heard that he was convicted by an Indian court for carrying an unlicensed firearm.
It still hurts and feels raw, which gives us an idea about Nick’s experience. It was five years ago.
He recalled the moment that the Indian coastguard boarded MV Seaman Guard Ohio and arrested its crew.
“That was when it hit us. He says that we weren’t going to the hospital. We’re actually going into a prison.
“That’s when we had to all make our phones calls back to our loved ones.
“But I was like, ‘Mam! I’m being arrested. I don’t know when my release will be. “I don’t know when you’ll be able to speak again, but I love and care about you.
Living behind bars
Nick was one six British men who served as security guards aboard the Indian Ocean anti-piracy ship. They were both charged with possessing unlicensed weapons, and sentenced to five year imprisonment.
To cope with the incarceration would require all of his mental and physical power.
Nick would spend the rest of his life in some of India’s most brutal prisons, where he was beaten and raped by violent criminals.
He claims that it was his military training and his experience as a paratrooper in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan that gave him the ability to survive.
He says, “When the cell door closes at night and you’re locked inside that cell, the turning of keys makes the hairs stand up on your neck and sends a cold shiver through your spine, it all returns.”
“The good times, the bad, and the suffering are the memories you have of your family. You just sit there and wonder: “What the hell is happening? “How am I going to survive this?”
“You have to see the light of hope”
He survived by staying positive, taking each day in its own way, and believing that one day he would be back in England to be with his family.
Nick and his fellow British prisoners, nicknamed the Chennai Six after the Indian town where they were held, made weights from the rocks and other materials they found in prison yard to train.
Being physically fit was a great distraction from the monotony of prison life. Nick would look through old photos to recall his past life in England’s North East when he was feeling low. He enjoyed reading and playing board games with his fellow inmates.
“You know, I like to play chess and other games and just try to get through the day. This is the best way to cope. You have to be active and not sit there pondering. It will all dawn on you. That glimmer must be a sign of hope.
Violent inmates and overcrowded cells
Nick claims he was exposed by the Indian gangs who targeted English prisoners. According to Nick, he witnessed a fellow prisoner slit the throat of a prisoner in one attack.
He describes prison life as “hell”. Overcrowded cells were home to flies and snakes.
He claims that he once fell ill and was covered in his vomit and faeces and then he broke down crying to see his mom again.
Nick was once so malnourished that he ate only one meal per day and lost 10kg.
“You realize what freedom truly means”
In 2017, the breakthrough came when a Chennai appeals court acquitted both men. Nick was finally allowed to return home. His joy at receiving the news was mixed with disappointment, he says, because he had seen so many failed hopes.
He says, “When those prison doors are open and you walk out, then you know that you’re not going to go back in that prison.”
It’s almost like your heart is bursting from your chest. But you are wondering if this is a trick. Is it a mind game?
“And then, you get in the embassy vehicle and drive away feeling the air conditioner for the first time since a very long while. It’s over. It’s over. You are trying to keep your tears from rolling.
It’s too difficult. You will cry, and then you realize what freedom truly means.
Nick’s memories of the Indian prison where he was imprisoned are becoming less vivid each day. He knows that he will never forget what happened.