Freed British prisoner of war Shaun Pinner used his sense of humour to get him through his horrific six-month ordeal.
And one of the first things to put a smile on the emaciated soldier’s face when he made it back to the UK was an egg McMuffin from McDonald’s.
Shaun’s mum Deborah Price, 66, who lived in dread after her captured son was given a death sentence by a sham Russian-controlled court in Ukraine, told the Sunday People : “His sense of humour has seen him through. The guys had a huge sense of humour to keep them going.
“He survived it quite well. Physically he’s OK but thin, mentally he’ll need a while to settle in. He’s hugely better than I was expecting but needs to put on at least a stone in weight.”
Shaun, 48, captured fighting for Ukraine during the Russian siege of the port city Mariupol in April, landed back in the UK at 6am on Thursday and immediately demanded a McDonald’s egg McMuffin.
Deborah, of Potton, Bedfordshire, said: “I asked him if he was sure since he’d been eating hardly anything while imprisoned. He said absolutely, he wanted a McDonald’s breakfast. Then that evening he had steak and wine. He’s happy to be back.”
British Army veteran Shaun was sentenced to death by firing squad along with his compatriot Aiden Aslin, 28, and Moroccan Saadoun Brahim, 22, after a show trial in the Putin-controlled Donetsk People’s Republic.
Last night Aiden’s gran Pam Hull, 74, of Newark, Notts, said: “I know from the little time I have spent with him that he’s been through a terrible time. He was stabbed twice in the shoulder in captivity. He may have some kind of PTSD and he will certainly need help in getting his life back together.”
Shaun’s mum Deborah said cruel guards revelled in telling the prisoners the Queen had died but they knew nothing else. Shaun, who spent nine years in the Royal Anglian Regiment before joining the Ukrainian army four years ago, is to speak to Foreign Office officials to give grim details of his captivity.
He has also been offered counselling by a charity. Deborah said: “He’s keen to talk to someone officially. There’s things he can’t say to the family. He will have some counselling provided by Hostage International. We’ve dealt with them until now and they’ve been absolutely amazing. They’ll help when he’s ready.”
Shaun’s Ukrainian wife Larissa will join him in England when she gets a visa. Deborah said: “He’s desperate to see her and she’s desperate to see him. I don’t think she wants to live in the UK but for now it’s the only way.”
Shaun, his son Evan and the rest of his family celebrated Deborah’s birthday on Saturday with a slap-up meal. Shaun told his mum he would not be fighting again, but would try to help Ukraine another way in the future.
His sister Cassandra, 43, a nurse from Bedford, said: “You can’t imagine the feeling of all being together.
“It’s my mum’s actual birthday on Sunday, Their wedding anniversary was the day he came home, my brother’s birthday is next week. It’s all worked out so well.”
Shaun is one of five Brits released following a prisoner swap. He arrived back with Aiden Aslin, John Harding, 59, Dylan Healy, 22, and Andrew Hill, 35. Moroccan Saadoun is also free.
The men met former Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich on the flight home after the Russian oligarch helped broker the deal with the help of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Abramovich, 55, gave the men phones to call their families.
Shaun’s stepdad Lyndon Price, 63, would not divulge what his son went through in captivity but added: “It’s been very hard for the last six months. He’s very tired and emotional.”
John Harding has said he would not have surrendered if he had known the torture they would be subjected to.
He described how soldiers jumped on him, punched him and kicked him in a sustained half an hour-long attack, breaking most of his ribs and leaving him passing blood when urinating.
All five men are due to be interviewed by the London Met police to see if they are war crime victims.
The Met said: “Our war crimes team continues to support the International Criminal Court’s investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine.”