David Simpson, the British pilot held in a squalid African jail on suspicion of murdering 13 miners, was due to spend this morning at home with his family in North Yorkshire after all allegations against him were dropped.
He flew back to Heathrow on the first flight home less than four hours after officials in the Central African Republic confirmed late on Friday that he was a free man.
Mr Simpson, 24, had been held for 162 days in a grim prison in the capital, Bangui, after being accused of involvement in the deaths of 13 gold-miners near to where he worked as a bush pilot for a big-game hunting firm.
Although he protested his innocence, judges wanted a full investigation.
"He was told that the legal stuff had been sorted out and he was free to go," Paul Simpson, Mr Simpson's brother, said. But he said they were worried his brother intended to return to the CAR.
Thirteen of Mr Simpson's African colleagues, arrested with him, were also acquitted. The killings bore the hallmarks of an attack by rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army.