Bungling groom jailed for bomb hoax on wedding day

Neil McArdle arrives at Liverpool Crown Court. Picture: PA
Neil McArdle arrives at Liverpool Crown Court. Picture: PA
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A GROOM who staged a bomb hoax on his wedding day so his bride would not find out he bungled the booking was jailed for 12 months yesterday.

Neil McArdle had forgotten to fill in the forms to marry “love of his life” Amy Williams, but could not face telling her the big day “that was all she talked about” was not going to happen.

Instead the 36-year-old tried to “weasel” out of his predicament, Liverpool Crown Court heard. As his bride got ready for her wedding, he slipped out of their house in Kirkby, Merseyside, went to a phone box, disguised his voice and rang Liverpool Register Office, claiming: “This is not a hoax call. There’s a bomb in St George’s Hall and it will go off in 45 minutes.”

The call, which came 11 days after the Boston Marathon bombing, provoked “terror” at St George’s Hall in the centre of Liverpool, which was immediately evacuated.

Miss Williams was left standing outside in her wedding dress with the rest of the wedding party as the area swarmed with police racing to the scene.

But his would-be in-laws were already suspicious, the court heard, and a row broke out.

Police quickly traced the call and the defendant was arrested the same day and admitted to his “embarrassment and shame” that he panicked and staged the bomb scare.

Miss Williams has stood by the defendant, the court heard, and they are still together.

A tearful McArdle, who pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to a single charge of communicating false information with intent on 26 April, was jailed for 12 months by Judge Norman Wright.

Derek Jones, prosecuting, told the court: “This defendant knew the wedding was not going to take place at St George’s Hall on that day. So at 9am on the morning of the wedding he went to a phone box around the corner from his home address and rang through to St George’s Hall.

“He stated, ‘This is not a hoax call, there’s a bomb in St George’s Hall. It will go off in 45 minutes’.

“You then have the bizarre situation where the defendant, his fiancée and her family were standing outside with the other people who had been evacuated.”

Forty-five minutes later the all-clear was given and a member of staff at the hall went to help the wedding party with their “delayed” ceremony. But he spotted a “heated conversation”, with the bride’s sister saying to McArdle: “You probably done the bomb scare yourself.”

McArdle had also used his mobile to call the venue after his initial call – to tell police to call off the alert. His mobile phone was registered at his home address and he was arrested at 4pm that day.

Mr Jones added: “He realised the day before the wedding was not going to take place and because he did not want to let his fiancée down or he was too embarrassed to tell his family, he panicked in the morning and rang St George’s Hall.

“He was hoping all weddings would be postponed and it would give him time to book the wedding in the future.”

Charles Lander, defending, told the court: “If it was not so serious, the facts of this case have all the markings of a comedy.”

McArdle realised he had bungled the paperwork and was about to tell his intended – but she got up at 4am on the day and put on her wedding gown.

“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,” Mr Lander added.

Judge Wright said the defendant’s bomb hoax “must have shook sheer terror in the heart” of the receptionist and those responsible for security at St George’s Hall.

As well as serving 12 months in jail, McArdle was also ordered to pay £100 court costs.