But James says he didn't come to Odessa looking for love. With good reason. James got out of the car and the waiting crowd turned to clap. Moments later, James and Irina recited their wedding vows under an arch of flowers. It soon became clear that her troubled past went much deeper than just fleeing war. Perversely when they were apart, communication was easier. When a British charity worker got engaged to a young Ukrainian woman, he thought he was building a new life for them both in Odessa - he was wrong. Instead of putting the money in Irina's personalJames was told he should put the money in the company of her friend Kristina, the wedding planner.
So on Friday 10 Julywith the encouragement of his fiancee Irina, James married the wedding planner Kristina Stakhova.
But there was a chemistry between us," says James. The prices were inflated, the 60 guests most probably paid to be there, even Irina's "mother" turned out to be Julia the translator's mum. Then 32 years old, she was from Donetsk, one of the cities in eastern Ukraine that are now occupied by Russian-backed fighters.
Working abroad was new to James, but he threw himself into it with the help of a translator called Julia. There's a Sherlock Holmes notepad, Sherlock Holmes business cards and his ringtone is the theme tune of the Soviet TV version of Sherlock Holmes which many in the former Soviet world argue is the best.
Over the next six months, the new couple saw each other whenever James came to Odessa. A charity worker living in the UK, he was asked by a friend in to help set up a new project supporting children fleeing the conflict zone in Ukraine's east. So he took the plunge, deciding to move to Ukraine and start a new life with Irina. He was almost certainly the only one attending who thought it was real. Deeper just days to go Irina was threatening to call off their wedding unless the money was released and they had a home to move into.
The BBC has verified his page what happened using bank documents, official records, text messages, and interviews with many of those directly involved. Irina was "jumping up and down," James said, "she was happy now". He was excited to see his fiancee, Irina, waiting for him outside the restaurant on Ukraine's Black Sea coast.
Odessa multi-faceted and ranges from pay-per-mail services to face-to-face "romance tours", where Western men pay thousands of dollars to meet a series of prospective young Ukrainian "wives". He's moving stiffly, she's smiling and waves at the camera. And thanks so much for that… I believe in YOU.
Just you can give me this happiness. James had fun with Irina, but they were never alone. Twenty years younger than him, she looked glamorous, her blonde hair fresh from the hairdresser. A dating shows James and Irina dancing slowly on the dancefloor.
Engaged to irina
Records show Kristina divorced Denys three weeks before she ed the paper to marry James. They flirted through the messaging app Viber, which has a translation function. This is a story about how a British man lost most of his life savings, as well as his dignity.
The couple went out for a few evenings in a row, enjoying Odessa's nightlife. James's car pulled up at the Villa Otrada. It was the couple's wedding planner. Ukraine is one of Europe's most corrupt countries and has had several high-profile banking scandals.
By midnight James was lying alone in hospital, sick from a suspected spiked drink. Kristina the wedding planner also had a husband, called Denys, but he was apparently more willing to play along. Translator Julia was always there and Irina told him she didn't believe in sex before marriage. James had popped the question after some firm prodding from both Julia and Irina.
He quit his job and sold his house, and with Irina's encouragement they began looking for a place to live together in Odessa.
A fake wedding, and a $, scam
But intimacy, even kissing, was off-limits. Follow the yellow-and-black arrow through the archway and across a courtyard, and you reach the office of Robert Papinyan, private investigator. He says he'd fallen in love but had no illusions about the strength of Irina's feelings. There were expensive meals and evenings at the Opera House.
But what should have been the perfect moment was in fact nothing of the sort. The former policeman is well-dressed, with dyed black hair.
Eight months before the wedding reception, the pair held an engagement party at the same venue, Villa Otrada. That friend was Irina. I love you," one message she sent James says. Despite some misgivings, James wired the money to Kristina. For several months he shuttled back and forth, combining his voluntary work in Odessa with his full-time job in the UK.
Then that winter, a heavy snowfall brought their work in Odessa to a halt. Transferring money from the UK to Ukraine is never straightforward. Not far away were what James thought were Irina's parents and 60 invited guests, also dressed to the nines. There was an age difference of 20 years but James says they got on "like a house on fire".
There wasn't much to do, so Julia suggested that James might like to go on a date with one of her friends. His plan was to do everything apart from the legalities - go ahead with the wedding before sorting out a quickie divorce to Kristina and a new legal marriage to Irina.
He was married, but it wasn't to the woman he loved. The evening of the wedding reception, with a first-ever night of intimacy between James and Irina looming, drastic measures were taken.
It's November11 months after their first date. As it turns out, Mr Papinyan's methods bear little relation to that of his fictional hero on Baker Street. It was Julythe start of a hot summer in Odessa, and tables had been laid out on Villa Otrada's terrace overlooking the sea. When the money arrived in Ukraine things took a surreal turn. James didn't know it at that point, but his fiancee Irina already had a husband.
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With the benefit of hindsight, James now knows that everything about the wedding reception was a scam. Money-laundering controls mean there are limits on the size of the transfer, and big s quickly attract attention. There's a thriving "dating" industry here. The hope was that it would pave the way for her to move with him to the UK. But after a few chats with embassy officials, it was clear that the bureaucratic obstacles to a move were huge.
Moonlight in odessa
James began paying for Irina to have English lessons. Irina announced to James that the bank would only release the money if he was legally married to Kristina.
Everything is on brand. The year-old British charity worker had been looking forward to this moment for months. It would be a formality, completed in just 10 minutes in a registry office and unpicked at a later date, she said. The day after marrying Kristina, James's taxi pulled up at his wedding reception to Irina at the Villa Otrada. Such is his embarrassment that he's told no-one in the UK his story, not even his family. Irina spoke minimal English and James no Russian or Ukrainian.
My friends in the UK thought it was a big step but they were happy for me that I had a future. It's the entertainment heart of the city, full of restaurants and bars.
Europe's second-largest country had just undergone a revolution, and Russia had responded by supporting a rebel uprising. James was now in an impossible situation. A showing the silhouette of a man in a hat with a pipe sticks out above the pavement of Lanzheronivska Street in central Odessa. The connection was a sort of shared interest.
Once the scam marriage was over, she married Denys again. Walk down it in the evening and you'll almost certainly see Western men dining out with much younger Ukrainian women, a bag of expensive deer gifts sitting on the chair beside them. And how Ukraine's justice system laughed in his face.