Howard Walmsley: The Man Who Faked Winning the Lottery

Even though winning the lottery sounds too good to be true, we don’t usually question it when we hear about someone getting lucky. However, the people in Howard Walmsley’s life would’ve benefitted from a little bit of skepticism. In this article, we’ll explain who Howard Walmsley, also known as John Eric Wells, is and how his wild story eventually landed him in jail.

Lottery Liar Howard Walmsley With WifeWHO IS HOWARD WALMSLEY?

Howard Walmsley is an Englishman from Intake, Doncaster, who made headlines in the UK in the late 90s when it was revealed that he had lied about winning the lottery. Working as a painter and decorator at the time, Walmsley first let the news slip to his wife Kathy when he told her that he’d won a modest prize from the National Lottery. Things might not have gotten so bad if Walmsley’s lie had stopped there, but his little white lie to his wife soon spiralled out of control. Soon enough, Walmsley was telling Kathy—and banks, businesses, and more—that he had won a staggering £8.4 million. While lying about anything is usually not recommended, it was the things Howard did in trying to live up to his lie that led him to serious trouble.


Howard Walmsley didn’t just lie about winning the lottery. To keep up appearances, he also started to go about his life as though he truly had come into a large amount of money. Soon, he started promising Kathy luxury items like Jaguar cars and a 17th century Derbyshire farmhouse. Even worse, he began writing cheques to try to purchase these items. As if a string of bounced cheques wasn’t bad enough for Walmsley, he also forged documents in order to open numerous bank accounts to keep up this new lifestyle. Using his lie, Howard was also able to convince businesses to give him materials for his work, running up thousands of pounds in credit that he never paid back.

To get his hands on some real money and not just the money he had in his fantasy world, Walmsley also began temporary relationships with two women. He charmed the women, borrowed money from them, and even spoke with one of them about buying a home together. Ultimately, he took these women’s money and never paid them back. When Walmsley was finally arrested in 1999, he initially tried to keep up the lie with the police. He told them about the £8.4 million jackpot before finally admitting he had made up the story about the win. In the end, Walmsley confessed to 12 offences of deception and one of false accounting.

His story had so captivated the country that a 50-minute documentary was produced and aired on TV. You can check it out below:

Not only that, but a movie based on his life was released in 2004 as well. The film, titled Can’t Buy Me Love, starred actors Martin Kemp and Michelle Collins as fictionalized versions of Howard and Kathy.


Howard Walmsley was in a tight spot when he first started telling people that he was a lottery winner. His business was failing, his relationship with his wife was on rocky ground, and debt collectors were coming knocking. Walmsley claimed that he started lying about the money because he thought it would help save his relationship with his wife. However, the fact that Walmsley had previously been caught and jailed twice before for similar crimes casts some doubt on his explanation.

Regardless, it seems that the lie may have worked for a little while, as Kathy stood by Howard during his trial and wrote to the court asking for leniency for her husband. When Kathy’s pleas were ineffective, she reportedly wept when he was sentenced to jail.


Howard Walmsley Now and ThenFor his offences, Howard Walmsley was sentenced to three years in prison in 2001. Though no one heard about Howard for a while, the conman made headlines again in September 2019. It appears that he wasn’t able to save his marriage and didn’t learn much from his stay in jail, as he started scamming women out of money once again. A story from The Sun reports that South Yorkshire police are looking for a man named John Eric Wells, who used to go by the name Howard Walmsley. The police are aware of both Wells and Walmsley's past and believe he could also be living under the name Howard Hemmings. Police claim that Wells, aka Walmsley, committed at least three separate instances of romance fraud, taking more than £400,000 from his three victims. Police state that the offences started taking place in September 2014. They are currently asking the public’s help in tracking down Walmsley and say he may be living outside the UK.


While winning the lottery is something many people fantasize about, there aren’t many people who try to make that fantasy a reality through deception and fraud. Howard Walmsley used his story of winning the lottery to scam innocent victims and ultimately had to pay the price for his lies. As far as lottery scams go, his is definitely among the most shameless and reckless we’ve ever come across—right up there with Indian lottery scammer Kola Venkata Krishna Mohan. After all, just how long did he think he could keep that lie going for?

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