Ex Plymouth marine Pen Farthing describes "heartbreaking" decision to leave staff behind in Kabul

A former Plymouth Royal Marine who founded an animal shelter in Kabul has described the "heartbreaking" decision to leave his staff behind in Afghanistan after they were denied permission to leave the country.

Paul "Pen" Farthing flew back into the UK on Sunday on a privately chartered flight , along with 200 cats and dogs.

Visas had been granted for his 24 staff and their dependents, but when they arrived at Kabul airport they were told they didn't have the correct paperwork, according to Mr Farthing.

The founder of the Nowzad animal rescue charity told ITV: "Getting the animals out was part of the mission but it wasn't the whole mission.

"The fact that I'd got the staff into the airport but they were turned around because we didn't have the correct paperwork as the rules had changed two hours before was heartbreaking."

He went onto describe how he and his staff were turned around at gunpoint by the Taliban, and forced back onto the streets, in the aftermath of Thursday's bombing close to the airport.

Pen Farthing at the headquarters of his Nowzad animal rescue charity in Kabul. Credit: PA

Mr Farthing was speaking from Oslo, where he has now been reunited with his wife Kaisa Markhus. She flew out of Afghanistan last week.

In his interview with ITV's Good Morning Britain, Mr Farthing went onto apologise for the language he used in a leaked audio recording of a conversation he had with a special adviser to defence secretary Ben Wallace.

He said he was focussing his efforts now on getting his staff safely out of Afghanistan, saying he feared they were in danger because the Taliban are aware who they are.