Radio competition winners marry despite never having met

Craig Cooper, 30, and Rebecca Duffy, 28,were the winners of a radio station competition in Birmingham in which the prize was marrying a total stranger. Far from being a crass publicity stunt, organisers said, this was a noble attempt to boost the failing institution of marriage.

Standing behind the 30-strong group of dewy-eyed relatives and friends yesterday was a television camera crew recording their moment as part of a documentary. The couple, who won the contest which drew more than 250 contestants, were not put off by the fate of their predecessors, Greg Cordell and Carla Germaine, who married in the same way seven years ago, and split up three months later - after he allegedly cheated on her. Unlike the earlier couple who were brought together by a judging panel in January 1999, the Coopers' pairing was voted for by 100,000 members of the public who read the profiles of eight finalists on the internet.

The couple were whisked off to a press conference minutes after they had exchanged rings. They held hands, giggled and told the media that they already "fancied each other".

As winners of the Two Strangers and a Wedding II contest, they will have a paid-for honeymoon in Bermuda and be given the use of a city-centre flat and a car for 12 months, as well as being the "stars" of two television documentaries.

Mrs Cooper said she did not have any qualms about entering the competition. "Why not do it? It's very early to be in love but when I saw him, I thought he was absolutely lovely. After I get to know him, things can develop but ... he's very nice looking," she said.

Mr Cooper said his brother had been a finalist in the competition seven years ago. "I know it's kind of a strange thing to get your head around but the public has picked a great choice. She is the type of person I would have approached anyway," he said.

Organisers at BRMB radio station said the numbers of couples getting married was at an all-time low. So why not try something novel to boost the institution? Elliott Webb, the co-presenter of The Big Brum Breakfast show, said: "This makes people think about marriage and re-engage with the process. This is another way of doing it."

Radio's doomed first attempt

* The winners of the original contest in January 1999 were Greg Cordell, then 28, and model Carla Germaine, 23, who honeymooned in the Bahamas but moved out of their luxury canalside flat in Birmingham and returned to their previous lives three months later after Mr Cordell allegedly cheated with a dental nurse. Ms Germaine subsequently married television presenter Jeremy Kyle, who was working at BRMB when they met. Mr Cordell is now a recruitment consultant in Dubai.

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