THE parents of deaf charity worker Ian Stillman are enjoying their first Christmas with their son for years.

Roy and Monica Stillman travelled from their York home to stay with their daughter, Elspeth Dugdale, Ian's sister, in Romsey, Hertfordshire. It is their first lengthy reunion with 52-year-old Ian since he was released from an Indian prison two weeks ago.

They were joined by Ian's wife, Sue, and his 20-year-old daughter Anita, who last weekend flew to Britain from India for the first time since 1998.

Monica, of Tadcaster Road, said: "It is going to be such a great Christmas."

The event will bring together 25 members of the family, eager to celebrate Ian's first Christmas outside jail in two years.

He was jailed after being convicted of cannabis possession, a charge he has always denied.

But his release came after intervention by Britain's foreign secretary Jack Straw, following public pressure including a petition signed by 5,400 Evening Press readers.

The newspaper had started campaigning for Ian's release after hearing he had been denied a sign language translator at his trial, effectively excluding him from taking any part.

His release came on medical grounds. The profoundly deaf man is also diabetic and had a leg amputated after a road accident.

Ian said today: "Since being released I have had only four nights of reasonably decent sleep.

"A small start has been made on the medical front, with two visits to two doctors. I now have a wheelchair and a pair of crutches and I will soon be starting on a new course of medicine to try and deal with the various medical problems.

"What's it like being back in England? December isn't that cold, but it was surprising to see the cars on the motorway put their headlights on at 2.30pm."

Ian and Sue are now talking to decide their future.

Ian has already said he wants to return to India to continue his work with a charity he set up to help deaf Indians.

Elspeth said: "They hope to have plenty of talking time over the Christmas and New Year period when they will be together and with the wider family.

"This is a luxury that did not even seem possible a few weeks ago."

Updated: 10:58 Tuesday, December 24, 2002