Bride 'ran off with gifts worth £95,000'

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The Independent Online

A runaway bride left her groom standing at the altar with 150 astonished guests while she allegedly absconded with wedding gifts from his family worth £95,000.

A runaway bride left her groom standing at the altar with 150 astonished guests while she allegedly absconded with wedding gifts from his family worth £95,000.

The woman of 32, who was identified only as Paula, is also accused of walking off with valuable items taken from the home of her husband-to-be in the town of Pombal, 70 miles north of Lisbon.

The shocked bridegroom thought at first that his beloved had been kidnapped. But the fugitive apparently went to ground in a house in Lisbon where she was spotted a few days later.

Police arrested the woman in the Portuguese capital at the weekend on charges of fraud and theft. A judge ordered her to report regularly to the police while her actions were invest-igated and suspected accomplices were questioned.

The bridegroom's family spent about £13,000 on the wedding, which was to have taken place at the picturesque 15th- century monastery at Batalha, one of Portugal's most magnificent ancient monuments.

Some 200 of the woman's family and friends were invited to attend the ceremony but none of them showed up, according to a report in Lisbon's Correia da Manha newspaper. It illustrated the story with photographs showing rows of empty gilded chairs that had been allocated to the friends and family of the bride.

The woman, of no fixed abode, had apparently devoted her life to plotting similar scams, although this was the most extravagant stunt to date, police sources said.

She apparently showed no surprise when police officers tracked her down.

"I was waiting for you to find me," she is reported to have told them. When confronted with the accusations against her she apparently accepted the charges and said that she would create no difficulties.

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