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‘Evil’ Ian Beale lookalike is the ‘devil incarnate’, says victim of Casanova conman: Pensioner, 74, duped out of her life savings by Lotto fantasist says her life has been ‘ruined’ – as police ramp up hunt for fraudster


A pensioner duped out of her life savings by an ‘evil’ Ian Beale lookalike says her life has been ‘ruined’ – as police ramp up the hunt for the fraudster.

Hazel Wilkins, 74, is in a care home, but before she fell ill, she told The Mirror how she was forced to sell her home after John Eric Wells allegedly tricked her to get her life savings.

‘That man has ruined my life and who knows how many others,’ she said. ‘I had a lovely family home, and 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 hate him so much and I think about him and what he has done to me and my family every second of every day. He is the devil incarnate to me.’

It comes as police have stepped up the search for Wells, who has been on the run for nearly five years after conning lonely women out of £400,000. 

Police are searching for the 'Casanova conman' who robbed lonely women out f their life savings

Police are searching for the ‘Casanova conman’ who robbed lonely women out f their life savings

Victim Hazel Wilkins appeared on This Morning in 2019 to tell how she met Wells online

Victim Hazel Wilkins appeared on This Morning in 2019 to tell how she met Wells online

Hazel’s daughter, Lynsey, said he is responsible for her mother’s plight, claiming that it gave her PTSD and ‘destroyed’ her. 

South Yorkshire Police first launched an appeal for ‘Casanova Conman’ Wells in September 2019.

Despite resembling one of British television’s most iconic characters – played by Adam Woodyatt on Eastenders for decades – he’s managed to evade arrest for more than four years.

Wells, who is in his 60s, is also believed to go by the names Howard Walmsley and Howard Hemmings and is wanted in connection with three romance frauds.

It is claimed he fleeced his victims out of their entire life savings by sweeping them off their feet and going on a spending spree with their money.

Victim Hazel appeared on This Morning in 2019 to tell how she met Wells online.

Despite John Eric Wells resembling one of British tv's most iconic characters - played by Adam Woodyatt on Eastenders for decades - he's managed to evade arrest for more than four years

Despite John Eric Wells resembling one of British tv’s most iconic characters – played by Adam Woodyatt on Eastenders for decades – he’s managed to evade arrest for more than four years

He started asking her for money when they entered a relationship in 2014 and later took out loans in her name before fleeing, leaving her in a mountain of debt.

The conman promised Ms Wilkins he would buy her and her two daughters homes only to back out at the las minute leaving one of them homeless shortly after she gave birth. 

Ms Wilkins then sold her own house to get a new place where her daughter and grandchild could live with her. 

She also told the paper she has paid back £17,000 in loans he took out in her name since he disappeared, which has cut her pension in half.

Wells also ‘cancelled their wedding plans five times’, told her he ‘owned dozens of hotels around the world’ and claimed he had cancer, according to the grandmother.

But she believes whenever he went ‘overseas’ he was actually back in his hometown of Doncaster.

Ms Wilkins said she has since been in touch with another woman who told her Wells carried out an ‘identical scam’ on her.

Wells was jailed for three years after faking an £8.9million lottery win in 1996. He later claimed it was an attempt to save his marriage to wife Kathy, pictured with him in 2001 outside court

Wells was jailed for three years after faking an £8.9million lottery win in 1996. He later claimed it was an attempt to save his marriage to wife Kathy, pictured with him in 2001 outside court

Kemp starred alongside ex-EastEnders actress Michelle Collins as Wells' wife Kathy

Kemp starred alongside ex-EastEnders actress Michelle Collins as Wells’ wife Kathy

Wells had previously been jailed for three years after faking an £8.9million lottery win, later claiming the scam was an attempt to save his marriage.

He conned banks, a solicitor, an architect, a car firm and two women friends out of £53,000 in total.

The plot was turned into the film Can’t Buy Me Love, penned by EastEnders’ writer Tony Jordan and starring Martin Kemp.

His crime was later turned into an ITV movie called Can't Buy Me Love in 2004 starring Martin Kemp as the painter/decorator

His crime was later turned into an ITV movie called Can’t Buy Me Love in 2004 starring Martin Kemp as the painter/decorator

The 64-year-old was tracked down to a bar in Vietnam by The Mirror in 2019 after it was believed he fled the country to be with his wealthy lover in Asia.

Wells is said to be running a bar bought for him by a wealthy hotelier. But a former friend of ‘the natural born liar’ says she could be his next victim.

‘He’s still in Asia and is supported by her. She’s a rich lady from Vietnam. She paid about £23,000 cash to buy him that bar,’ the unnamed friend told The Mirror.

The bar’s owner said Wells left three months ago when she took over and renovated the property. She claimed he returned to England after the bar got in to difficulty.

But friends say he is helping his lover renovate the bar while entertaining revellers with karaoke, and his Facebook page lists his location as Dubai.

Judge Jane Shipley, who jailed him at Sheffield Crown Court in 2001, 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.’

A spokesman for South Yorkshire Police confirmed Wells was still wanted, saying: ‘Police would like to hear from anyone who has seen or spoken to Wells recently, or has information which may help officers with their enquiries.

‘It is possible Wells is currently living outside the UK. If you see him, or you have any information which may help, please call South Yorkshire Police on 101.’



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