A couple who was conned out of more than £2,000 have revealed the moment they started to realise their ‘wicked and twisted’ wedding planner had vanished – just three days before their nuptials.
Jason and Nicky Asquith-Thorpe, from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, paid Dana Twidale, 44, to provide the marquee, tables, chairs and food for 100 guests at their wedding reception on July 27, 2019.
But just three days before their wedding, they discovered it was all a scam – the fraudster disappeared and the plans for their big day were left in ruins.
Between 2017 and 2019, Twidale, of Hull, ‘blighted’ the weddings of 24 couples when she took payment for services that she did not deliver, Hull Crown Court heard. She was jailed for five years in July 2021.
Jason and Nicky have now opened up about their ordeal in the third episode of Quest Red’s series, The Big Swindle, which airs tomorrow and tells the stories of the most brazen and ruthless con artists and the victims they preyed on.
Twidale – who also lied about being a domestic violence victim, that her mother had died and her brother had tried to commit suicide, in order to defraud people she knew – used the money to fund a gambling problem and a month-long holiday to Spain.
In a clip from The Big Swindle, Jason and Nicky explain how they learned that the wedding planner they considered ‘a friend’, had failed to meet them at the venue as planned – just three days before the wedding.
Nicky recalls: ‘We all went to the venue together, so my mum, my auntie, myself, Jason, my children.
‘We were hoping that Dana would already be there with her van putting the marquee up and the chairs and the tables.’
Jason goes on to say: ‘When we arrived at the venue there was no van, there was no marquee, no nothing.
‘There was a car parked with a couple sat in it that we’d never seen before, we assumed that one of them was Dana.
‘They were the people that she’d hired to come and fill the marquee – to make it really special for us. And they were still none the wiser, they assumed she was going to turn up as well.’
Nicky continues: ‘This is the worst bit – Dana had messaged me saying “we’re running late, don’t worry, we’ll be there.” And that was the last message I received from her.’
Still believing that there had to be a logical explanation, Jason says: ‘By lunchtime she hadn’t turned up. We kept ringing and it’d just ring through. So then we thought it might be a problem with the phones so then I rang, then someone else rang.
‘The couple that were there to put the marquee together they rang, there was just no answer. It was surreal because there was somebody from Hull that had turned up and they were there to put all the decorations together.
‘I think it was about 2 o’clock – we had to go to the church to do our rehearsals… when we get back she’ll be setting up everything. We didn’t know what happened we didn’t know if something was wrong with her.’
Speaking out about the fraudster in June 2021, Jason said they initially thought she was very ‘approachable’ after finding her on Facebook.
His wife travelled to Hull to meet Twidale, and said she thought the planner was ‘really good’ after showing her pictures of venues and marquees.
But after Twidale failed to show up to their venue and disappeared days before the wedding, Jason slammed the ‘devious’ wedding planner for ‘ruining’ their wedding day.
He said: ‘Emotionally it was supposed to be one of the happiest days of our lives but it was one of the worst. It was frustrating, annoying and just heartbreaking.’
Thankfully for the couple, they were able to use a church hall and Harrogate Town Football Club’s bar to host their wedding, but had to spend an extra £3,000.
They reported Twidale to the police and almost two years after the nightmare ordeal, she pleaded guilty to conning Nicky out of £2,247.
Jason continued: ‘Over the next couple of days we were constantly talking about it and wondering why she has done this to us.’
After going on the run and disappearing without a trace, Twidale was eventually spotted sunning herself in Benidorm, Spain, and also reportedly in Tenerife.
But in May 2020, she was back in Britain and was seen working in takeaway shops in the Humberside area. The law finally caught up with the conwoman, and she was jailed for five years in 2021.
Jason said: ‘It was gobsmacking to find out how many people were victims and how devious she had been.’
Police and the reporting agency Action Fraud began to investigate Twidale after complaints from engaged couples, catering and event hire firms and DJs.
A number of love-struck men also said the mother-of-four defrauded them out of large sums.
One man, 45, said he lost £4,000 to her. And another suitor who met her via the Tinder dating app claimed he gave her £10,000 for her mother’s funeral – only to find out that her mother was still alive.
The news of her guilt came as a relief to many – none more so than her estranged husband Carl Twidale who had to fight to clear his name after he was accused of knowing about her wicked behaviour.
Speaking two years ago when the allegations came to light, Carl said: ‘It was numbing to read about all the scams and I can’t believe she has done this.
‘When I first met her she was lovely, bubbly and you just wanted to be around her. Everybody would say the same but it seems that was all part of the act.
‘There are no words. She is just wicked and it’s twisted – you can’t do the things she has done.’
Carl, of Hull, has been estranged from Twidale for at least four years. He said he wants to divorce her for good so they are no longer associated by name and he can make a fresh start with his new girlfriend.
Carl says he has been contacted by other men who claim to have been in a relationship with Twidale over the past few years.
Carl has not heard from Twidale since she moved out of his flat. They have been estranged for years and he faced threats when she was initially accused of fraud in 2019.
The Big Swindle airs on Quest Red and Discovery+ Saturday 27th May at 10pm
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