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Police hunt for ‘Casanova conman’ who left heartbroken women with £400,000 debt


Conman John Eric Wells was jailed for three years for his jackpot scam, and the bizarre crime was later dramatised in a film starring Martin Kemp.

Wells tricked his wife, family, friends and bank managers while going on a frenzied spending spree.

Now, more than 20 years on, he is accused of leaving a trail of devastated women in his wake.

Conman Wells with victim Hazel Wilkins at her daughter’s wedding

One claims he caused her to sell her home and fleeced her of her life savings after posing as a millionaire hotelier.

Fantasist Wells, whose lottery lie in 1996 inspired the movie Can’t Buy Me Love, also starring Michelle Collins, is on South Yorkshire Police’s wanted list.

Officers fear he has fled the UK, and may be up to his old tricks.

One of Wells’s alleged victims, Hazel Wilkins, 70, who lives with her daughter from Rusper, West Sussex.

I had a lovely family home, a great job and I was happy when I met him. Now I have nothing and I will never be happy again. It’s too late to get back what he has taken from me.


“I worked really hard for nearly 50 years. He took everything away from me in three. I hate him so much.

“I think what he has done to me and my family every second of every day. He is the devil incarnate to me.”

Hazel claims Wells stole her life savings of almost £63,000.

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

Since he vanished in 2017, she has been paying back £17,000 in loans he’d taken out in her name – wiping out half her pension.

Hazel Wilkins has been left paying off huge debts since Wells’ disappearance

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

He told her he owned dozens of hotels around the world.

He went on frequent “business trips”, often sending her photos from exotic-looking locations.

Wells was never overseas, but working in his home town of Doncaster, South Yorks, where he was living a double life, she claims.

Wells persuaded banks and businesses to give him credit and car firms to lend him vehicles.

When cheques bounced, he said he was having trouble getting money from his overseas accounts.

He showed paperwork that appeared to give evidence of his fortune.

When police arrested him, he still claimed to be a Lottery winner.

Last week, South Yorkshire Police released his picture and a statement.

It said: “Officers are asking for your help to find wanted man John Eric Wells.

Wells is also believed to go by the names Howard Walmsley and Howard Hemmings.


The 61-year-old is wanted in connection with three high-value romance frauds, during which three victims lost money totalling more than £400,000.

“The offences are reported to have taken place from September 2014 onwards.

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