The Lottery Liar – The Bizarre True Story of Howard Walmsley
There is nothing quite like someone winning millions in the lottery to fire up the imagination within our own minds. For most of us, the news of a winner immediately sparks a deep desire to share in that success and fortune. We picture what we ourselves would be spending our fortune on – a trip to an exotic location, a luxury home or car, a trust fund or college fund for our kids. For some, it’s the simple reassurance that we’ll probably never have to worry about making ends meet again.
However, the cold hard reality is that, for most of us, winning the lottery will always be exactly that – just a dream. This is mostly because the odds of getting the right six or seven numbers (depending on the lottery) in a row correct are staggering. You have a better chance of being hit by lightning. Now, imagine being so desperate for fame and success that you’ll actually go to extreme lengths, like turning your lottery dream into a real-life lie.
Could you imagine what the consequences would be if you lied about winning the lottery? As most of us have realized at some point in our lives, the consequences of our actions can ripple out in unexpected ways and can be devastating.
What you are about to read is all true.
The Little Lie That Changed Everything
Meet Howard Walmsley, a mild-mannered Englishman who turned his life around and saved his failing marriage at the same time when he won £8.4 million in the lottery. Except, he didn’t. Howard Walmsley made it all up and, at the same time, set a chain of events in motion that could not be stopped.
As with many crazy real-life stories, it all starts with just one little lie. For most of us, tiny white lie here and there doesn’t really do any harm, especially if it is for the good of someone else. However, in many instances, a small and seemingly harmless lie often begets a slightly bigger lie to cover up the original lie and it snowballs from there.
In Howard Walmsley’s case, the original, tiny lie that sets off this story was told to his wife. A little back-story here, Howard and his wife Kathy were not doing well. Not only were they struggling financially, but they were also struggling romantically as well. In fact, things were so bad that debt collectors had been coming to their house in an effort to recoup unpaid debts.
In a last-ditch desperate attempt to salvage his marriage and his life, Howard told Kathy that he had won some money in the lottery. At first, Howard tried to keep the windfall to a modest figure, but it quickly got out of control and, before long, he was telling all who would listen, that he’d won well over £8 million.
Kathy believed Howard’s lie. Perhaps out of the same feeling of desperation and the need to feel that everything was going to be fine from now on. But, the reality was, that there was no money at all, not a cent. However, this did not stop Howard from continuing to propagate the lie, telling more and more people about his fake lottery win. He conned his way through a number of cheeky deals as he desperately tried to keep the elaborate and outrageous lie going.
The thing with a lie though, any lie, is eventually you will run out of the road. Which is exactly what happened to Howard Walmsley, who was eventually caught out and arrested in 1999.
Unraveling the Lie – Howard Walmsley’s Trial
Walmsley’s trial gripped the nation, as more and more details surrounding his big lie were revealed and the tightly woven deception began to unravel.
One of the most interesting, and perhaps most revealing discoveries at the trial, was that this was not the first time that Walmsley had been in trouble with the law. In fact, he had already been jailed twice for similar offenses.
In his defense, Howard stated that he had begun the lottery lie in a bid to not only save his crumbling marriage but his business as well. Walmsley, a painter, and decorator by trade, believed that the lottery lie would save his marriage as he would now be able to provide Kathy with everything that she had always wanted. Unfortunately, of course, it was all a lie and there was no money at all for anything.
However, this truth did not stop Walmsley from going ahead with his deception, as he figured that he could use the lie as leverage or perhaps as collateral to convince people to part with their own money and possessions. This included a list of businesses and banks, as well as other women who Howard had charmed. He would convince these unsuspecting and gullible women to ‘loan’ him money, which of course he would never pay back. Nor did he ever intend to pay anyone back.
The Business of Lying
Aside from gullible and impressionable women, Howard targeted a number of local business in an effort to con them out of goods and services. He used his lottery lie to open lines of credit worth thousands of pounds with local suppliers and merchants. He wrote checks for goods and services for his business and of course, all of them bounced since there wasn’t any actual money to honor them.
During the trial, prosecutor for the crown, Paul Watson told the court that Walmsley had opened several bank accounts using forged documents. These bank accounts included significant overdraft facilities which he then used to facilitate his lottery lie. Walmsley had even gone so far as lying to police in an effort to convince them that the lottery win was, in fact, true, but eventually recanted and admitted that it was all a lie. He went on to admit guilt to twelve counts of deception as well as one count of false accounting.
All for Kathy
According to Walmsley, everything he did was for his wife, Kathy. This included the revelation that he intended to purchase a 17th-century manor house in their home county of Derbyshire, worth an estimated £300,000. He even went as far as commissioning an architect to draw up renovation plans which included a massive swimming pool and as many as four garages. Walmsley wrote a check for £294,000 to cover the sale of the property and deposited into his solicitor’s account. Naturally, since there was no money to cover it, the check bounced.
On another occasion, Walmsley visited a Jaguar dealership accompanied by his wife to shop for a luxury vehicle. While looking at the Jaguar collection on the showroom floor, Walmsley hinted at his lottery fortune to the dealer, who believed that Walmsley was the recipient of over £4 million in winnings. Subsequently, Walmsley went on to ‘purchase’ at least three luxury vehicles to the tune of over £120, 000. Once again, Walmsley wrote checks to cover the cost of the purchase from non-existent funds and, naturally, the checks bounced.
Kathy Comes to the Defense
Perhaps it may have come as a surprise for most at the time, but Kathy did her best to come to her husband’s defense, even after being lied to in such as deep and dreadful way. Kathy Walmsley wrote to the judge in her husband’s case, pleading for the judge to show mercy. She truly believed that her husband had in fact been acting in the best interests of their marriage, and had committed the fraudulent activities and concocted the lies to keep them together.
However, the judge in the case was having none of it and said in court that all the deception, lies and fraud, committed over a two year period, was motivated by far more than love. Addressing Howard Walmsley, the judge said, “I take the view you lived in a fantasy world”, she said at Sheffield Crown Court at the summing up of his trial. “You wanted to aspire to the high life, to appear successful. You conned your victims. But you can’t con this court”. Howard Walmsley was convicted and sentenced to prison for three years.
After the Dust Settled
In the years after Walmsley’s trial and sentencing, a TV drama was made based on the events of the real story. The made for TV drama, Can’t Buy Me Love, starred soap star Martin Kemp and Michelle Collins and was met with a fair bit of success.
Back in the real world, Walmsley struggled to adapt to life after prison and, even though his wife forgave him and took him back in, he continued with his life of deception. This included posing as a lonely single man on various online dating sites and taking advantage of divorcees, still posing as a lottery winner to take advantage of them in all sorts of ways.
While it seems that Walmsley has since fallen off the radar, the sensational and often bizarre story should act as a cautionary tale to anyone looking to mend their lives with lies and deceptions.