Like many a groom before him, Neil McArdle spent the eve of his nuptials double-checking his to-do list, from keeping track of the rings to laying out his suit. It was only when he got to the undelivered form for booking the wedding ceremony itself that he realised he had a problem.
But rather than tell his bride-to-be that their big day was the subject of a significant last-minute hitch, McArdle decided on an alternative course of action - shortly before the ceremony he nipped out to a call box and delivered a bomb threat to the register office.
The 36-year-old was yesterday given the time to ponder the wisdom of his strategy for concealing his administrative failures in the shape of a 12-month prison sentence for causing “terror” at St George’s Hall in Liverpool on 26 April this year.
A judge heard that instead of grasping the nettle of a painful conversation with his fiancee, Amy Williams, university-educated McArdle had panicked when he realised his error hours before the wedding and decided to “weasel” out of his predicament.
After Miss Williams awoke at 4am on the day of the wedding and began her preparations, McArdle slipped out of their home in Kirkby, Merseyside, and called the Liverpool Register Office, using a disguised voice to tell the receptionist: “This is not a hoax call. There’s a bomb in St George’s Hall and it will go off in 45 minutes.”
The 9am call, which came 11 days after the Boston Marathon bombing, provoked a full-scale emergency inside the neo-classical building in central Liverpool as staff and the public were evacuated while police and firefighters rushed to the scene.
Among the visitors left standing outside was Miss Williams in her wedding gown and other members of the wedding party.
Unfortunately for the groom, who was also present and busy feigning surprise, the hoax did not have the desired effect of cancelling all ceremonies for the rest of the day and thus allow McArdle to re-book the ceremony he had neglected to schedule in the first place.
Some 45 minutes after the “bomb” was supposed to have gone off, the all-clear was given and a member of register office staff emerged to find the groom and his future sister-in-law locked in a “heated conversation” with her saying: “You probably done the bomb scare yourself!”
Charles Lander, defending, told Liverpool Crown Court: “If it was not so serious, the facts of this case have all the makings of a comedy.”
The barrister said that after seeing his fiancee in her wedding dress, he had found himself unable to confess his error. Mr Lander said: “She looked amazing. He just could not get out the words to her to tell her what he had not done in relation to the forms.”
The court heard that after making the hoax call, McArdle used his personal mobile phone to call the venue and try to call off the hoax. He was arrested at 4pm on the same day after police traced that call.
McArdle, who was tearful in the dock, pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to a single charge of making a threatening phone call. Sentencing him to one year’s imprisonment, Judge Norman Wright said: “Having realised you hadn’t booked the wedding, you did nothing, and nothing and nothing and buried your head in the sand.”
The court that for the disastrous groom there was at least some small cause for happiness - his fiancee has stood by him.
Mr Lander said: “If any individual should abandon him, has been humiliated by him, the fact that she stands with him speaks volumes for her and I hope volumes for him.”