Northern Ireland

Derry police in 'sham wedding' arrests blunder

Yanan Sun and Neil McElwee
Image caption Yanan Sun and Neil McElwee's wedding was stopped by police

A Castlederg man has rejected an apology from the police after they interrupted his wedding on suspicion it was "a sham marriage".

The police wrongly arrested Neil McElwee and his pregnant fiancee, Yanan Sun, moments before the ceremony at the Guildhall in Londonderry on Tuesday.

Chief Inspector John Burrows said the police had acted in good faith, but sometimes they got things wrong.

Mr McElwee said "sorry" would not make up for the distress caused.

The couple were taken to a police station, forced to dress in forensic clothing and separated.

They were held for five hours and only released when their solicitor got involved. They were married the next day in nearby Castlederg.

The police told the couple they were acting on an anonymous tip-off.

They have accepted that they made a mistake and have apologised.


However, Mr McElwee said: "It just doesn't add up - something on that scale based on an anonymous letter and some paperwork faxed through about two hours before the wedding. It just doesn't happen like that.

"So there's a lot of questions that need [to be] answered and there's a lot of people responsible for this mess-up.

"An apology? It's just no good - apologies won't give us our day back. It won't make everything better."

Mr McElwee's solicitor Karina Breslin Carlin said: "I do have concerns that the Borders Agency have taken the view here, that if it's alleged this is a sham marriage, it's a great opportunity to go into this wedding ceremony and see how many Chinese nationals are there who may not have the correct paperwork in order.

"You can't replace a man's wedding day, you can't replace a bride walking in on her wedding day to assembled guests. They will never get that moment back, they'll never get those memories back."

One wedding guest has been referred for deportation.