Inside lotto conman’s sick web of lies to convince women he won £8.4m jackpot

CONMAN John Eric Wells has now been on the run for FOUR YEARS after spinning a web of lies to convince women he won a £8.4million jackpot.

The Doncaster decorator vanished back in 2019 after conning his lovers out of £400,000.


Painter and decorator, Howard Walmsley, 43, and his wife Kathy arrive at Sheffield Crown Court in 2001Credit: PA:Press Association
A more recent photo of the South Yorkshire man, who is believed to be hiding out in Vietnam


A more recent photo of the South Yorkshire man, who is believed to be hiding out in VietnamCredit: J E Wells

Wells, who used to go by the name Howard Walmsley, first hit the headlines back in 2001.

The unusual crook was he was jailed for three years after he posed as a Lottery winner to save his marriage with wife Kathy and con victims out of cash.

He targeted banks, a solicitor, an architect, a car firm and two women friends.

Wells conned one woman out of £8,000 by making her believe he was about to move in with her.

He ordered a fleet of Jaguar cars and made plans for an extension – including a swimming pool, granny flat and garages.

By the time he was arrested he was claiming to have scooped £8.4 million on the Lottery.

His case even inspired the 2004 ITV film ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ which starred Martin Kemp and Michelle Collins.

Judge Jane Shipley, who originally jailed him at Sheffield Crown Court, told him he lived in a ‘fantasy world’.

She added: “You wanted to aspire to the high life and appear successful, but you seem to lack what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.”

After being sent to prison, Wells laid low for 18 years – however, in 2019 he once again hit the headline.

It was then police revealed they are looking for him in connection with three high value “romance frauds”.

Victim Hazel Wilkins, of Brighton, told how she fell for Wells after meeting him online in June 2014.

He swept her off her feet and proposed in front of her family and friends in December 2015.

They set the date four times but on each occasion he had a reason to cancel.

In the end he stole her life savings of almost £63,000.


Hazel said: “Before I met him I had a good job, lots of money in the bank and I’d never been in debt.

“That man has ruined my life and who knows how many others.

“I had a nice life and a beautiful home. But he left me with so much debt. I don’t want to fall in love again. 

“I won’t trust anybody. I have got to the point of hiding my purse. I just want him found and put where he is supposed to be – behind bars.”

He convinced her to leave her job, telling her he had a 500-seater restaurant in Guernsey that she could manage, which never materialised, she alleges.

Hazel said he took her on cruises and they stayed in penthouse suites in top hotels.

Wells claimed told her he owned dozens of hotels around the world and pretended to go on frequent “business trips”, often sending her photos from exotic-looking locations.

In reality he was working in his hometown of Doncaster, South Yorks, where he was living a double life, she claims.

He was carrying out an identical scam on another woman, who Hazel has since been in touch with.

Hazel says Wells also claimed he had cancer, and cancelled their wedding plans five times, saying that friends and family had died.

He was convincing, charming, funny and kind. Love is blind and I was head over heels.

Victim Hazel

Wells vanished in 2017 and Hazel claims she’s been paying back £17,000 in loans he took out in her name, which has wiped out half her pension.

He also promised to buy her daughters a house but backed out at the last minute, leaving one of them, who had a newborn baby, desperate and homeless.

Hazel felt she had to sell her own home to buy somewhere for her daughter and new grandchild to live – then had to move in with them herself.

She explained: “I feel so stupid. But he was convincing, charming, funny and kind. Love is blind and I was head over heels.”

South Yorkshire police said in a statement Wells is wanted in connection with three high value romance frauds, during which three victims lost money totalling more than £400,000.


Cops also said they believe he is abroad –  and pals have said he is hiding in Vietnam with a new wealthy lover.

In 2019 friends claimed a wealthy woman from Vietnam had bought him a bar, which he had been helping to renovate and where he had been entertaining karaoke customers, The Mirror reports.

One former friend feared she could be Wells’ next victim and said: “He’s still in Asia and is supported by her. She’s a rich lady from Vietnam. She owns hotels all over.

“He’s a natural born liar and she’s gullible. She paid about £23,000 cash to buy him that bar. 

“He told me he was in Dubai for 11 years working as a lawyer.”

Read more on the Irish Sun

Last year Wells went viral when cops renewed their appeal for information – with social media users pointing out that he is the spitting image of an iconic TV character.

Hundreds rushed to Twitter to talk about his uncanny resemblance to EastEnders’ longest-serving character Ian Beale, played by Adam Woodyatt.

Wells pretended he had won the lotto to save his marriage


Wells pretended he had won the lotto to save his marriageCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd

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