No one was spared in Dana Twidale’s twisted web of lies – distraught brides, her own husband and even the bereaved.
During her two-year spree of fraudulent schemes, the wedding planner conned dozens of couples out of thousands of pounds, leaving them scrambling to rescue the happiest day of their lives.
The 44-year-old, from Hull, was jailed this week for five years after admitting 26 counts of fraud by false representation totalling nearly £60,000.
Estranged from her husband, the shameless criminal even fooled one of her many lovers, borrowing tens of thousands of pounds after falsely claiming she was the victim of domestic abuse.
Donning make-up to show her ‘bruises’, she even went as far as telling him her mother had died to persuade him to pay for a gravestone – despite her mum being alive and well.
By the time her victims sought to bring her to justice, she had fled to Benidorm with her ill-gotten gains – going off the radar as her devastated husband was left to deal with terrifying threats and rebuilding his life.
Wedding scams left couples distraught on big day
When Carl Twidale married Dana in 2014 following a whirlwind six-month romance, he thought he’d found the woman of his dreams.
“When I first met her she was lovely, bubbly and you just wanted to be around her,” he told Leeds Live. “Everybody would say the same.”
Twidale was a wedding planner by trade, but after her business hit a rocky patch, she fell into gambling.
By August 2017, her marriage was feeling the strain. She became estranged from Carl, while her debts continued to spiral.
To cover the costs, she embarked on a series of scams, making false promises to 24 different wedding couples and raking in thousands despite failing to deliver.
One such couple were Jason and Nicky Asquith-Thorpe, from Harrogate, whose wedding in July 2019 was left in tatters when Twidale allegedly disappeared just 24 hours before.
Nicky says she paid Twidale “well over £2,000”, only to find an empty marquee when they arrived at the venue.
“I still feel like I am in a whirlwind and it hasn’t sunk in. I was still holding out on the Friday that Dana would show up and the day would turn out fine,” she said.
“It looks like she has done this to 20 or 30 people. I hate her for not letting me enjoy the time with my children and make it right for them and my family.”
Shockingly, Twidale’s deceit stretched beyond weddings – as she allegedly even targeted the bereaved with warped lies.
Hull Crown Court was told how Fiona Barker, a woman Twidale met while working at a funeral home, was persuaded to give £650 to the crook.
Twidale “preyed” on the fact that Fiona’s son had taken his own life by claiming she had been in hospital after her brother’s own suicide attempt, according to prosecutor Dale Brook.
Julia Harrison, from Hull, previously told of how she had bonded with Twidale while arranging a funeral for her son, who had died of liver disease.
She said the fraudster had claimed that her own son only had one lung, and she was struggling to pay a £300 MOT bill.
Suffering from chronic lung disease herself, Julia “felt sorry” for Twidale and loaned her the money, which she did not receive back.
Julia told Hull Daily Mail : “I have lung disease and COPD, and I know how difficult life can be with chest problems, especially in the winter like it was, and I felt so sorry for her son when she started crying about him while I was there.
“She told me he only had one lung and all the money she had was going towards him and his treatments, and she couldn’t afford to pay her MOT bill.
“She seemed so upset, and I just felt so sorry for her son. It was my own stupidity but I offered her the money as a loan.”
As Twidale sought more quick cash, she also looked to exploit extra-marital romances.
One target was Nigel Wainwright, who racked up debts of more than £42,000 after matching with her on Tinder in September 2018.
During the summer, Nigel’s father had died, leaving him distraught and fragile.
Despite actually living alone at the time, Twidale claimed she was a victim of domestic abuse, sending him pictures of a black eye that she later admitted was make-up.
To help her escape her apparent situation, Nigel initially took out nine loans amounting to more than £17,000 to help fund the deposit and rent on a flat.
That December, Twidale also asked him for assistance in paying for her mum’s ‘funeral’, which saw Nigel borrow £3,000 from his family to pay for a headstone.
The 10-month relationship with Twidale cost Nigel more than £42,000 as he continued to borrow money from elsewhere.
Brook told the court: “All of this was entirely false and the claim her mum had died was particularly cunning and abhorrent because her mum was alive and well.”
He added: “The reason he continued to provide money was because the defendant assured him she was due £29,000 and would pay him back.”
By 2019, Twidale’s victims had begun to realise they were far from alone, and sought to bring her to justice.
They set up a Facebook group collecting their stories, but as the allegations went public, the criminal fled to Benidorm.
Among those leading the charge was Twidale’s devastated husband, Carl.
Despite living apart for two years, the pair were still married and he received threats over her actions that left him “living in darkness”.
He told Yorkshire Live : “It was numbing to read about all the scams and I can’t believe she has done this.
“There are no words. She is just wicked and it’s twisted – you can’t do the things she has done. It’s one thing scamming people but preying on their vulnerabilities is just wrong.
“I’ve started to question now if I ever really knew who she was. She was my wife but I just don’t know her anymore.
“I look back and rather thinking of the good things I am constantly reminded what she put us through.”
After hearing rumours of Twidale’s escape to Benidorm, he visited her flat in Bridlington to find clues about her disappearance.
Here, however, he was told by her landlord that his wife had a string of lovers on the go.
He said: “I went to her landlord to apologise because I’m that sort of guy and my mum is worried if I apologise too many times it’s a sign of guilt but I’m just trying to help everybody.
“Her landlord said to me she was potentially seeing four blokes at the same time and it seems I was just one of them.”
‘She’s caused so much heartache’
Twidale disappeared off the radar for two years. First she was thought to be in Benidorm, before later being spotted working at a takeaway in Hull.
When she was finally brought before the courts, she admitted 26 counts of fraud by false representation – including 24 wedding couples and Nigel’s loans – and was sentenced to five years in jail.
“The words she has written in the numerous documents for me include how sorry she is to all of the couples that are involved as part of her offending,” her lawyer Michele Stuart-Lofthouse said this week.
“She also says that the word sorry means nothing and she accepts that because what’s done is done.”
Sentencing Twidale, judge Mark Bury said of the wedding fraud charges: “Those frauds, 24 of them in total, amount to something in the order of £15,000.
“Not, in the grand scheme of things, a large amount of money, but to each and every one of those victims it meant a lot.
“The majority of them had saved and scrimped, gone without, to pay you to make their day special and you went off to Spain with the money, or to the local bookmakers I imagine.”
Carl, meanwhile, has been pleading for a divorce, hoping he can start life afresh with his new girlfriend.
He says he has heard “nothing back” from his attempts to get his estranged wife to sign the divorce papers.
In a direct plea to Dana, he told Yorkshire Live : “Let me go and just let it go. She has caused so much heartache to everybody.”