Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Lottery Winner, the Gangster Turned MI6 Agent and a [Pounds Sterling]4m Sting; the Astonishing Story of a London AMBULANCE MAN WHO WON A MILLIONAIRE LIFESTYLE ONLY TO SEE IT STOLEN IN A BREATHTAKING SCAM

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Lottery Winner, the Gangster Turned MI6 Agent and a [Pounds Sterling]4m Sting; the Astonishing Story of a London AMBULANCE MAN WHO WON A MILLIONAIRE LIFESTYLE ONLY TO SEE IT STOLEN IN A BREATHTAKING SCAM

Article excerpt

Byline: KEITH DOVKANTS

THOMAS Papworth's story is, frankly, very hard to believe.

When he talks about how his [pounds sterling]4 million Lottery fortune was taken away from him, the roles played by MI6, Scotland Yard and one of London's most notorious gangsters, there is a powerful sense of an impending visit by men in white coats.

But Thomas is not mad. Nor is he a fantasist. Rather, he is the victim of one of the cleverest, cruellest cons executed in recent times. It was played out against a background of yachts, girls and fast cars in a millionaire's playground on the Costa del Sol. At its heart is a man who, for decades, ran a crime empire that covered most of the West End. The elaborate scam mounted by this character to separate Thomas from his lottery millions is breathtaking.

Sprawled on a sofa in his modest house, where a Ford Focus has replaced the [pounds sterling]97,000 Mercedes SL 55 AMG on the drive, Thomas, 46, tells the story with an occasional shake of his head, as if, even now, he can't believe it has happened. On New Year's Eve, 1995, he was the sole winner of a [pounds sterling]6.4 million Lottery jackpot. At the time, he was earning [pounds sterling]200 a week driving an ambulance in north London.

"It's funny how it gets you," he says.

"I carried on working for quite a while afterwards. I just liked the people."

He says he gave away more than [pounds sterling]2 million to family and friends, believing that the [pounds sterling]4 million that remained would last him comfortably for the rest of his life. He had been divorced and was single and soon found himself among the serious expatriate hedonists on the Costa del Sol.

Among the expat crowd of hangers-on and scroungers, one person was different - John Fay. He was a tall, affable man in his sixties, charismatic and charming. "There was something about him, an aura," says Thomas. "He had this air of authority. He'd walk into a restaurant that was full up and they'd find him a table. We became friends instantly."

Fay encouraged Thomas to buy a huge apartment, worth around [pounds sterling]1 million, in the building in which he lived in Estepona. They became inseparable.

"We'd have breakfast together, then go to some of the smart shops. If I admired something, said I liked an item of clothing, John would buy it. He'd get out his black Amex card and buy it right on the spot. He was incredibly generous. He had this beautiful Bentley coupe, but he got bored with it and sold it. He then bought a Jaguar coupe and three Land Rover Freelanders. He gave one of the Freelanders to me.

"In the afternoons we'd sit on his terrace overlooking the sea and drink champagne. He always drank the same Dom Perignon vintage. He bought it wholesale for about [pounds sterling]80 a bottle. He'd usually get through three or four bottles in an afternoon."

The men went on trips together-Monte Carlo, Cannes. Thomas bought a 62-foot motor yacht for [pounds sterling]500,000 and they'd cruise the coast, usually with women aboard. "There were a lot of girls," says Thomas, "It was just so easy.

The culture there is very different. Rich men can take their pick - and we did."

The friendship flourished against this background of roistering and womanising. By the summer of 1999 John Fay was giving Thomas investment advice.

He introduced him to a friend, a London club owner, who persuaded him to invest [pounds sterling]1,475,000 in a Swiss bank account. At Fay's suggestion, Thomas bought a small yacht harbour near Marbella for [pounds sterling]250,000.

Now his portfolio at Barclays private bank had been entirely liquidated and the funds transferred to Spain. He was, after all, spending 11 months of the year there. He made occasional visits to the small house he still owns in Welwyn Garden City, but the Costa del Sol, John Fay and his other friends there, became his life. …

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