Couples spent thousands on weddings – but the planner was a fraudster

Cruelly conned by the wedding scammer: They lavished thousands on their big day… only to discover their planner was a fraudster who had also fleeced other couples (and both her husbands)

  • Jason and Nicky Asquith-Thorpe were conned out of £2,000 by wedding planner
  • Dana Twidale was yesterday jailed for five years for conning brides and grooms
  • The 44-year-old posed as wedding planner to con dozens of couples out of cash
  • The judge said her scamming 24 couples out of a total of £15,000 was ‘shameful’
  • Her estranged husband Carl Twidale said he’d been left £4,000 short by Twidale

Nicky and Jason Asquith-Thorpe’s wedding photographs show a smiling couple enjoying what looks like the best day of their lives.

Everything is picture perfect, from Nicky’s white strapless dress to the eight bridesmaids’ pastel gowns and ushers’ suits. They tell of a glorious day: a beautiful church service, followed by prosecco and a roast for 100.

But all bride Nicky remembers is tears and anguish in the run-up to their July 2019 wedding, very nearly ruined at the 11th hour.

‘I can never look back and think ‘that was the best day of my life’ because of all the heartache and rubbish that came in the days before,’ says the 33-year-old NHS worker from Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

‘As much as people say of our wedding ‘it was fantastic’, I was such a mess emotionally. Even now, it’s all still a blur.’

Instead, Nicky recalls the thousands of pounds they lost, and the thousands more they spent to salvage their big day, erasing the money they’d saved toward a house deposit. 

Nicky and Jason Asquith-Thorpe’s wedding photographs (pictured) look picture perfect. But all bride Nicky remembers is the tears after being scammed by wedding planner Dana Twidale

She thinks of the emotional turmoil, the embarrassment, the brave faces she and Jason put on for their guests. 

Then, Nicky’s thoughts turn to the woman responsible for the debacle — Hull-based wedding planner Dana Twidale — who was yesterday jailed for five years for conning would-be brides and grooms, leaving their dreams in tatters.

The 43-year-old had admitted 26 counts of fraud by false representation between August 2017 and July 2019 at an earlier hearing. 

The judge described her actions, conning 24 couples out of a total of £15,000, as ‘shameful’.

But nothing will restore Nicky and Jason’s tarnished memories — not to mention the £2,800 Twidale disappeared with, plus the thousands extra the couple had to pay to rescue their wedding.

Smooth-talking Twidale promised the Asquith-Thorpes a marquee, tables with crisp white tablecloths, elaborate decorations, gleaming cutlery, crockery and glassware, dressed chairs and food for all their guests.

But just 48 hours before the big day, Nicky arrived at the pretty pub that was to be their reception venue to find one very empty field.

‘All we had was grass and nothing else,’ says Nicky, whose increasingly frantic calls to Twidale’s mobile phone went ignored. ‘We never saw or heard from her again.’

Twidale (pictured), 43, from Hull, was yesterday jailed for five years for conning brides and grooms, leaving their dreams in tatters. She scammed 24 couples out of a total of £15,000

They would later discover Twidale had done a runner to Benidorm, where she was pictured sunning herself poolside at her Spanish hotel. 

While the twice-married mother-of-four topped up her tan, the hard-working couple she’d conned could no longer afford a honeymoon.

They had to fork out an extra £1,000 for a function room next to the church, plus £3,000 to feed their guests — kindly provided by a caterer at short notice.

All in all, the day cost them £8,000, more than double their original budget.

More distressing still, Nicky and Jason, 50, a bus company duty manager, weren’t the only ones to fall for the ‘wedding scammer’ and her Facebook ads offering budget-friendly packages.

After their plight was aired on local radio, they were bombarded with messages from other couples, worried that their big day was also in jeopardy.

Similar tales of bitter disappointment on social media led to the creation of a Facebook support group for victims — determined to warn others and fight for justice.

Among them were bride-to-be Sam Devine, 32, and fiance Phil Leach, both from East Yorkshire, who lost £600.

‘I felt upset, shocked and absolutely gutted,’ said Sam.

She’d moved their wedding forward after her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. ‘I just couldn’t believe somebody could prey on someone’s weakness like that.’

Kayleigh Enderby and Marc Hodge were also left in the lurch after handing over £600 to Twidale, which they later recovered via their bank.

‘I was like ‘wow — what are we going to do? We get married in four weeks’,’ said the mother from north Hull after Dana vanished.

So is Twidale as heartless as she sounds? Or an inexperienced entrepreneur who promised too much — and then bolted when she couldn’t honour her obligations?

Nicky and Jason initially gave her the benefit of the doubt, not wanting to believe that ‘lovely’ Dana deliberately set out to scam them.

Twidale, who advertised packages for as little as £1,000, successfully staged some weddings to begin with, posting impressive photographs and positive reviews online.

But one reputable wedding planner told the Mail: ‘She came to us when things were starting to fall apart, to rescue the events that weren’t going very well, looking to cross-hire things from us. I know there were some suppliers who stood up for her very valiantly in the beginning, until more and more victims came forward.

‘The hallmark of people who do these things is that they offer packages on social media for a very small amount, at half the price of the established companies to undercut them, but don’t make enough to cover their costs.

‘Sometimes it’s a case of unrealistic business practices which are unsustainable. I don’t like to speculate, but people have come forward saying it wasn’t just weddings, people were losing money in other capacities.’

Nicky and Jason would have been more wary had they known about Twidale’s history, littered with exes who also say they’ve been duped.

Her first brush with infamy came in 1998 when printer Richard Law told the People newspaper how she’d ‘met, married, and ripped him off’ in the space of 14 days.

The 43-year-old (pictured) had admitted 26 counts of fraud by false representation between August 2017 and July 2019 at an earlier hearing

Richard described how he’d fallen for the 21-year-old ‘awesome beauty’, then known as Dana McIntosh, in a Reading nightclub, marrying a week later.

Seven days later, he returned home to find her gone, leaving behind her gold wedding ring.

He later found their joint account emptied of £400, and overdrawn by £500. Some of their wedding gifts and items of his mother’s jewellery were also missing.

Reporting the matter to Thames Valley police, he warned ‘Dana is callous and will do anything to anybody to get what she wants.’

Mr Law told the Mail that she ‘only had one drive which was to make as much money as possible by cheating anyone she came into contact with. I was one of those people and she just preys on vulnerable people for her own ends.

‘Now she is finally being made to pay for making the lives of so many people a misery. I tried to raise how dangerous this woman was after she had left me devastated but no one would listen. They look at you as a man and say that you can’t be taken in by someone like her.

‘But that’s exactly the sort of woman she was and my experience with her left me in a very dark place. It’s been a hard struggle to get my life back and I’m now in a new relationship and I just want to forget I ever met this woman.’

Over the years many more men say they were seduced into parting with their savings by the ‘bubbly brunette’, who told her first husband her family lived in Sweden and owned a villa in Spain, when in reality she grew up on a Hull council estate.

Twidale’s mother has declined to comment, but messages purporting to be from family have appeared on Facebook apologising and insisting they knew nothing of the offences.

Estranged second husband Carl Twidale, 47, whose three-year marriage to the scammer collapsed in 2017, also said he’d been left £4,000 short after lending her money.

Publicly appealing to his ex-wife to sign their divorce papers, he revealed he’d been left to face the wrath of her clients when he’d had no idea what she was up to.

‘I’ve lived my life in the darkness with no lights on and it has been tough,’ Mr Twidale, a barber, said.

‘I’ve had threats and I’ve had to hide my car just in case, but on the plus side I’ve had other victims say ‘we know you had no involvement and we want to stay friends’.’

Dana’s estranged second husband Carl Twidale (pictured), 47, whose three-year marriage to the scammer collapsed in 2017, also said he’d been left £4,000 short after lending her money

It was Mr Twidale who identified the photos of Dana in Benidorm as his missing ex-wife, after recognising her distinctive tattoos.

‘When I first met her she was lovely, bubbly and you just wanted to be around her, but it seems that was all part of the act,’ he said when the allegations first came to light.

‘There are no words. She is wicked and it’s twisted — you can’t do the things that she’s done.

‘Scamming people and preying on their vulnerabilities is just wrong.’

Ex-boyfriend Nigel Wainwright, 51, from Bridlington, met Twidale on Tinder after her marriage collapsed. Hull Crown Court heard that he lost £42,000 to Twidale and was left on the verge of bankruptcy.

Twidale falsely claimed to Mr Wainwright that she was a victim of domestic abuse, but in fact, she had a gambling problem.

Vulnerable after losing his father, he said he gave Twidale money to pay for her mother’s funeral — only to discover that her mum was still very much alive.

‘The whole relationship was a sham,’ he told local press in 2019.

‘I thought this was it for me. She was saying all the right things but none of it was true. She said she cared for me and my mum and wanted to be in my life but now I just want my money back and I want to move on . . . she broke me.’ 

The clients attracted by her too-good-to-be-true prices and alluring photos knew nothing of this, of course.

‘I’d been saving for months, carefully budgeting every penny,’ says Nicky, who like many couples wanted to avoid spiralling prices. The average UK wedding now stands at a cost of between £18,000 and an eye-watering £32,000.

After checking out the profiles of other brides whose weddings Twidale had planned, and messaging them for feedback — on the whole positive — Nicky and her mum arranged to meet Twidale at her home in Hull.

‘When I met her, I thought she was lovely. She didn’t live in a mansion, but it was obviously her home. She had photos of her family up, wedding tablecloths in the washing machine and stacks of crockery in her car. She seemed very genuine,’ says Nicky.

‘She was so nice, I felt like I’d known her for ever. We had a pub venue near where we live, so we wanted a marquee on the grass next to it and we paid extra for her to do everything from the marquee, tables and chairs, to cutlery, glasses, water jugs, plates and food.’

They also paid extra for a ‘memory ladder’ on which to hang photos of loved ones missing from their special day, including Jason’s father who had recently died.

None of it turned up.

Publicly appealing to his ex-wife to sign their divorce papers, Carl (pictured with Twidale) said he’d been left to face the wrath of her clients when he’d had no idea what she was up to

‘The last message I had from Dana was ‘don’t worry, I’m running late, I’ll be there soon,’ recalls Nicky of those anxious hours at the venue, two days before she was due to wed. 

‘For the next three hours we waited and waited. I kept ringing her and she just didn’t answer her phone. It was switched off.

‘I didn’t know what to think, I kept telling myself ‘it’s fine, she’s going to be here’. It was around 7pm when I finally realised she wasn’t ever going to turn up.’

At their church wedding rehearsal that night, Nicky was in pieces, her mum was beside herself, and Nicky’s two children from a previous relationship, now aged 16 and 14, were devastated.

‘After all the effort we’d put into trying to make it a fantastic day, we felt absolutely heartbroken and betrayed. Jason — who served in the Army for 23 years — was so strong and practical saying ‘right, how are we going to fix it?’.

‘Without him, I think I would have fallen apart.’

In the end, as their wedding photographs show, their big day was a fabulous success — thanks to their ‘amazing’ family and friends, plus all the local businesses who rallied round in their hour of need. But it wasn’t what they’d dreamed of.

‘When I met Dana, I thought my wedding was going to be perfect and I still don’t want to believe she could deliberately do something so horrible to us,’ says Nicky.

‘She could have messaged me to say ‘I’m really sorry, I was struggling and I just couldn’t do it’ but she ignored me. She was living her best life, while we were left in turmoil.’

Twidale was arrested in September 2019 after being spotted driving around Hull, bold as brass.

Both Nicky and Jason were in court to see Twidale sentenced. ‘The money we lost doesn’t really matter any more, because we still had our wedding day despite what she did, and she’s got what she deserved. After all the heartache, we finally have closure.

‘But we’d really like to know what happened to our money. Did she use it run away to Benidorm? That would really hurt.’

‘Maybe now, she will finally learn or feel some remorse,’ says Nicky, adding: ‘I do hope that she’s sorry because I trusted her, I really did. That’s the sad thing, isn’t it?’

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