The biggest day of a woman’s life was ruined as – in a terrible blunder – police arrested her minutes before her dream wedding.
She had flown back to the West Country from the United States for the big day to be wed at the church where her family worship, but an administrative foul-up saw her spend the day in police custody.
The Rev Patrick Whitworth, the vicar at All Saints’ Church in Weston, Bath, said parishioners were stunned when a wedding there had to be abandoned on Saturday because the bride had been arrested by police.
Officers from the Avon and Somerset force apprehended the woman on behalf of the Border Agency as she was making her way to the ceremony.
The woman – who is originally from Malawi – was questioned and held in police custody overnight before being released without charge on Sunday after what is understood to be a case of mistaken identity.
Mr Whitworth said: “I’ve had people who are late for weddings but never seen anyone detained. We have been very shocked by what’s happened and slightly ashamed that people from other countries are treated in this way.”
No apology has been issued to the woman, who does not want to be identified.
Police referred inquiries to the UK Border Agency, where a press officer said it was “not appropriate” for him to apologise for the distress caused by the arrest but said she could make a formal complaint if she wished.
The 35-year-old bride had chosen to marry in the Weston church because her family have been members there for eight years.
The woman now lives and works in the USA but her parents and sister still live in the city.
Mr Whitworth said the woman was in the UK for ten days to marry her 32-year-old fiancé, who is also from Malawi, and who is studying business at university in London.
The couple’s reception at Garfunkel’s in Orange Grove, Bath, also had to be abandoned.
A police officer had visited the church office last Friday to check the paperwork for the wedding.
Mr Whitworth said: “We invited the officer to the wedding rehearsal that night but he did not come back.
“We thought it had been resolved, but the next thing we know we were waiting half an hour after the service was due to start, thinking she was late, but later found out she had been detained by officers at the bottom of the lane.”
He added: “Why if they had questions to ask why didn’t they ask them on the Friday or before the ceremony and this could have been avoided?”
The couple were finally able to marry at the church on Monday afternoon.