A couple wrongly suspected of a ‘sham marriage’ had their wedding day ruined when police arrested them in front of 50 guests moments before the ceremony was about to begin.
Neil McElwee and his pregnant Chinese fiancée Yanan Sun were held for five hours despite officers allegedly realising they had made a mistake within 40 minutes of the swoop.
Miss Sun, 20, was left in tears as she was forced to remove her prized wedding gown and put on a special forensic outfit instead.
Happy moment: Neil McElwee and his bride Yanan Sun pictured on their wedding day moments before police arrested them
Chef Mr McElwee, 25, and his fiancée were kept for an hour and a half in separate vehicles outside the Guildhall in Londonderry before being taken to cells.
They were finally released without charge when their solicitor, Karina Breslin-Carlin, got involved. They were married the next day in Castlederg in July last year.
Yesterday, the three officers who led the swoop were disciplined after the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland upheld a complaint that they had ‘unlawfully arrested and detained’
But Mr McElwee, from Strabane, said the findings of the report and actions against the officers involved in his case did not go far enough.
‘We could only have that day once in our lives, yet it was taken away from us,’ he told the Derry Journal.
‘The police could have done their jobs right and saved us a lot of trouble.’
Relief: The couple and their friends outside Strand Road police baracks in Londonderry after their release
Their solicitor will continue to fight for the ombudsman to uphold the allegation that there was an ‘unecessary delay’ in police releasing the couple.
Revealing how their wedding was ruined, Mr McElwee, who became a father six months ago, told BBC News: ‘We were excited and looking forward to getting married.
‘We were so happy when we saw each other at the Guildhall.
Happier: The couple after finally getting married
‘Then everything just changed. Our day crumbled in front of us, it was awful.
‘We had no reason to think anything sinister would take place.
‘The room was full of plain clothes police officers.
‘In front of all our guests they came in and said they had reason to believe it was a 'sham marriage'.
‘They based the operation in an anonymous tip-off letter.
‘They held us for five hours. Within 40 minutes they knew they had made a mistake.
‘The officers have been disciplined but I'm not satisfied. We went through such a bad time, it was torment.
‘We try to forget what happened on our wedding day. We never ever talk about our wedding.
‘My wife has not been the same since,’ he added.
Ms Breslin-Carlin, the McElwee family’s solicitor, said: ‘The police had time to redeem this situation so the couple could have carried on with their day, but they did not.
‘This was a farce. A bridal couple were kept in a car park for an hour and a half in separate vehicles.
‘They were then detained in separate cells for two hours. This is not good enough under any circumstances.’
A PSNI spokesperson confirmed that as a result of the ombudsman’s investigation three police officers were disciplined.
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