The TikTok mistress of reinvention who scammed thousands: Serial fraudster Carrie Jade Williams claimed to be a prize-winning writer, autism guru and terminal illness sufferer – before her cruel lies were finally uncovered
- A woman who took on several fake identities scammed people out of money
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Being sued by your Airbnb guests because they couldn’t stand to be around a disabled person sounds too cruel to be real.
However, this is exactly what one woman, Carrie Jade Williams, an Englishwoman based in Ireland, claimed had happened to her last year.
In a video that exploded on social media, Carrie, who said she had been diagnosed with the terminal illness Huntington’s Disease, said her Airbnb guests had demanded a refund and were attempting to sue her for 450,000 euros.
Why? She said they’d told her that ‘being around her as a disabled person’ had caused them ‘trauma’.
The story sparked outrage, with the hashtag #thisworldcanbeaccessible trending in minutes. People were desperate to help Carrie and find the heartless guests, and one of those people was VICE journalist Kat Denkinson.
However, what Kat found was a much darker truth – the story wasn’t real… and shockingly, neither was Carrie.
Carrie Jade Williams, originally from England but living in Ireland, professed to be a disability activist and went viral last year on social media after she claimed she was being sued by her Airbnb guests for being disabled
However, while there was an outpouring of sympathy for Carrie’s story; some people on social media became suspicious and a VICE journalist set to work finding out who she really was
In an investigation that first took her to Kenmare in Ireland, Kat discovered that Carrie Jade Williams was in fact a woman called Samantha Cookes, who had a history of compulsive lying alongside a tragic backstory of child loss.
Cookes disappeared from her home in Kenmare last year and hasn’t been heard of since.
However, ‘Carrie Jade’ wasn’t Samantha’s only alias. As Kat set about uncovering more of her several fake identities, she also found years of cruel scams.
The journalist found that Samantha had adopted a pattern of infiltrating small communities and embedding herself in the lives of vulnerable families by posing as someone qualified to look after children – only to then attempt to scam them out of money. In some cases, Samantha even received suspended prison sentences for fraud.
Each time Samantha’s lies began to unravel and people grew suspicious of her, she would pack up, disappear and resurface elsewhere under a new name.
Before she was disability activist Carrie Jade, Samantha was Rebecca Fitzgerald, the autism therapist. And before that she was domestic violence refuge owner Lucy Fitzwilliam, au pair Lucy Hart and a surrogate mother called Claudia.
The baffling story was first revealed by VICE in December 2022 and has since been turned into a podcast called Carrie Jade Does Not Exist – hosted by Kat and comedian Sue Perkins.
But what did Samantha do while under these false names? And who is she really?
The terminal illness sufferer: Carrie Jade Williams
Carrie first made headlines when she won the Bodley Head Financial Times literary award in 2020 – a prestigious essay competition with a £1,000 prize. She went on to host writing workshops online
Carrie Jade Williams is an English woman in her 30s who claimed to have Huntington’s disease, a rare and terminal neurological condition.
She arrived in Cahersiveen, County Kerry, in 2019 rather out of the blue and soon befriended a woman whose daughter had died.
She first made headlines when she won the Bodley Head Financial Times literary award in 2020 – a prestigious essay competition with a £1,000 prize.
In a video that exploded on social media, Carrie, who claimed to suffer from Huntington’s disease, said her Airbnb guests demanded a refund and attempted to sue her for 450,000 euros for the ‘trauma’ caused by ‘being around her as a disabled person’
Her compelling and emotional essay called: ‘My brain is in a battle it will lose’ told the story of her diagnosis with Huntington’s and how she could no longer write or hold a pen. The essay was said to have been written using assistive technology.
After winning the prize and having the essay published in a national newspaper, Carrie garnered a huge platform and everyone wanted to interview the terminally ill chemical engineer-turned star writer.
She began hosting virtual writing workshops during the pandemic and told those who had joined that she would help them get bursaries of up to £10,000 to kick-start their literary careers. Carrie claimed the money was coming from a literary app she was set to launch.
But as time went on, the app never launched and the group attendees never saw any money. Growing suspicious of Carrie, people began to question her and after months of stringing them along, Carrie said she was going to the US for life-saving surgery and soon ghosted the group completely.
Yet she continued to build on her platform following the win, and made YouTube videos detailing her horror diagnosis. Her story captured the public’s heart.
#duet with @Maz Xx #Stitch You’ve all heard of the tinder swindler but have you heard of the tiktok swindler 👀 That voice will stay engraved deep in my brain forever 😅 #scammer #tiktokswindler #tiktokscammer #samanthacookes #carriejadewilliams #thisworldcanbeaccessible
But in 2022, high on her success as an online disability activist, Carrie told a lie that would eventually unravel her lies. She posted a TikTok calling out Airbnb for allegedly siding with guests who had complained about having to use her accessible doorbell.
‘I know able-ism exists, and I’ve experienced it,’ she said in a teary video.
Carrie claimed the guests, who had stayed at her home, were so ‘traumatised by being around her as a disabled person’ they had complained to Airbnb – and that Airbnb had instructed her to refund them as a result.
The video went viral as people were horrified by the overt display of able-ism and Carrie soon posted a follow-up video – where she claimed the guests were now suing her for 450,000 euros for the trauma caused. They also allegedly slapped her with a list of 13 bizarre demands to cope with the trauma, including an emotional support animal and 25 adult colouring books a year for the remainder of their lives.
However on October 5, 2022, someone on Reddit posted links to articles about a convicted fraudster – who they claimed was Carrie.
Carrie issued a statement saying this was in fact her sister who had struggled with mental health problems and that it was defamatory for anyone to link the pair.
This led journalist Kat to investigate the story and over the course of two months, she uncovered the truth. Carrie Jade did not exist.
The autism expert: Rebecca Fitzgerald
The woman’s real name was Samantha Cookes, but she lived under several fake identities and names, including Rebecca Fitzgerald, Lucy Fitzwilliam, Lucy Hart and Carrie Jade Williams
In 2017, 29-year-old au pair and ‘autism therapist’ Rebecca Fitzgerald moved to Fermoy, a town near Cork, Ireland.
She lived and worked with a local family and formed relationships with parents in the community, advertising herself as a qualified autism therapist who could ‘teach non-speaking autistic kids to talk in just two months’.
Parents in the local area described her as kind, empathetic and the ‘perfect person’ and she was soon invited into their homes to help their children. Rebecca began working at Fermoy’s kids community centre and school.
It is not possible to reverse non-speaking autism in two months, Rebecca had no qualifications and she was not a child therapist.
Julie Lee, a mother in her 50s originally from Johannesburg and a taxi driver who often drove Rebecca from house to house, clocked that she was a fraud.
Rebecca would have no money when arriving at the houses of these families, Julie said, and yet when she picked her up she would have hundreds of pounds. ‘That’s how I knew what she was doing.’
During the drives, Rebecca told Julie she was opening a clinic for children and families and tried to recruit Julie to work there, before asking for a copy of her passport and money. Having recruited other people in the area, one woman even quit her job as an au pair to work for Rebecca.
‘That’s when I realised it was a scam,’ Julie said. ‘An unqualified person doing that, then looking for passport copies, then money.’
People at the school started to ask questions about the qualifications of their child’s new therapist. The school headteacher contacted the Garda [police] but they never followed up.
Julie also reported Rebecca, and the Garda told her they had a thick folder on Rebecca, and had been keeping track of her.
Officers were sent to Rebecca’s home and shortly after, she disappeared.
The speech therapist: Lucy Fitzwilliam
A year earlier, in 2016, bright and bushy tailed Lucy Fitzwilliam, 28, moved to County Geery, Ireland.
She introduced herself to the locals as a speech and language therapist who also ran a domestic violence refuge and quickly became a beloved member of the community.
Lucy met Lynn, not her real name for anonymity, a single parent and domestic abuse survivor whose youngest daughter has Rett syndrome, a genetic neurological disorder that affects the way the brain develops. Lucy offered to be her carer.
Lynn declined the offer but Lucy was persistent and instead said she could do art therapy with Lynn’s oldest daughter Sofia, eight, who had witnessed her father’s abuse.
The family became close with Lucy, and after months of ‘therapy’ she offered them a trip to Lapland. This was apparently being organised by the church who were covering half the cost.
Lucy said she needed a £500 deposit to secure the trip – which would be raising money for the domestic abuse refuge she claimed to run. The community rallied and Lynn’s mother made up 400-500 euros worth of food packages for the refuge.
As the Lapland trip drew nearer, Lynn said she had been trying to find a specialist nurse to care for her youngest daughter. It was at this point Lucy said she would take Sofia to Lapland alone and Lynn and her youngest could join them later once care was organised.
All Lucy needed was Sofia’s passport and birth certificate, Lynn said.
‘She had zoned in on my Sofia and I still to this day believe she looked for a signature from me so she could bring Sofia herself to Lapland.’
Suspicions in the community escalated when one of Lynn’s friends, a woman called Pauline whose son is autistic, said Lucy had also tried to convince her to hand over her son’s passport.
Lucy was reported to the Garda for trying to scam families in the community out of money and passports, but she was let go without charge. She packed up and left County Geery that same night.
The au pair: Lucy Hart
Two years before there was Lucy Fitzwilliam, there was a 26-year-old woman called Lucy Hart.
Bonnie, not her real name for anonymity, a woman in her 40s from Tullamore, had been looking an au pair to help look after her children.
She came across Lucy on an au pair website in 2014. Lucy said she was experienced in childcare and following a quick video call, Bonnie hired her.
‘She was so convincing, and really lovely in the interview we had,’ said Bonnie.
In a video for the ALS ice bucket challenge, Lucy nominated her mother ‘Jane’ to take part and her employer Bonnie’s children poured the water over her head
Bonnie and her children ‘loved’ Lucy and she quickly became part of the family – regaling them with her interesting stories about her previous au pair jobs and her own family. Lucy said she was adopted and that her mother Jane Hart lived in the United States. She said her mother was the ‘main supplier for sandpaper for B&Q’.
In a video for the ALS ice bucket challenge, Lucy nominated her mother ‘Jane’ and Bonnie’s children poured the water over her head.
Lucy soon opened up to Bonnie about her love life, saying she was dating a man in the UK who had two children from a previous relationship.
Bonnie also received an insight into Lucy’s tragic past, as she told her that her previous fiance Liam had had motor neuron disease and killed himself by hanging.
Lucy said she had found him.
The pair’s friendship grew but things changed during Christmas in 2014 – when Lucy accused Bonnie’s children of stealing her money and engagement ring. Bonnie did not believe her children would do such a thing and the relationship began to break down.
Bonnie went back over many of Lucy’s elaborate stories and found they did not add up, so one day challenged her au pair as she launched into yet another tale. Kind and smiley Lucy was quickly replaced with an angry woman who accused Bonnie of attacking her and stormed out of the room.
Things remained tense until one day in January when Lucy said she was going on a writing retreat and disappeared.
After a few weeks, Bonnie accepted Lucy was not coming back and went into the room she had been staying in. In the wardrobe she found piles of documents and one truly chilling letter that made her ‘blood run cold’.
Among shopping lists and legal documents was a statement about visitation rights for Lucy’s child – a child whose name matched the one she claimed was her boyfriend’s from another relationship.
More chilling still, Bonnie came across a statement.
The statement read: ‘I stand shoulder to shoulder with the coroner and I did not murder my daughter. I pray she is at peace.’
Her real identity: Samantha Cookes
Behind all of the aliases is a real woman – Samantha Cookes.
Born in 1988, Samantha grew up in Gloucestershire, before moving to Shropshire with her mother and her new husband after her parents divorced.
Samantha had a reputation for being a liar, her friend from school said. Her lies included her mother having cancer and her being pregnant and miscarrying.
Aged 18, Samantha was dating a boy called Liam. She went as far as to set up a website to plan their ‘wedding’. There was no wedding.
The pair split up some time later and aged 20, Samantha started a degree in Occupational Therapy at York University.
However, Samantha later discovered she was pregnant and left university in her first year, returning home to Shropshire. She gave birth to a daughter called Martha in 2008.
Tragically, just four months later, Martha died.
A five-month inquest found Martha had died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) – a result which appeared to vindicate Samantha, who seemed to have taken the inquest as an accusation.
It was at this point Samantha made the statement later found by Bonnie in Tullamore six years later.
‘I stand shoulder to shoulder with the coroner, and I did not murder my daughter,’ it read. ‘I pray she is at peace.’
Born in 1988, Samantha Cookes grew up in Gloucestershire, before moving to Shropshire with her mother and her new husband after her parents divorced
Samantha did not return to university as she chose not to fill out criminal records check forms.
Two years later in 2010, Samantha started a relationship with a man, whose identity is not being revealed to protect him and his family. The pair had a child.
The same year, 23-year-old Samantha offered her services as a surrogate on Facebook.
After making contact with a couple about being their surrogate, Samantha passed on the contact of a woman called Claudia, who had previously used her as a surrogate. Claudia gave the excited couple a glowing review of Samantha.
Having never met her face to face, the couple gave Samantha £1,200 out of their savings to cover the cost of the insemination kit, legal fees and other expenses.
Sadly the baby never came, and as both Samantha and Claudia avoided the couple’s messages, they realised they had been duped. The police were contacted and a 23-year-old woman was arrested at her home in Shropshire.
The case came to trial in 2011 and Samantha pleaded guilty to fraud. She received a suspended sentence of 9 months’ imprisonment and a fine of £1890 to be paid to the couple.
But what the trial also revealed was that Samantha and Claudia were the same person. Claudia did not exist.
A year later, Samantha gave birth to a second child with the man she had been dating but due to mental health problems, the father was given sole custody. In 2013 she became pregnant with her third child with the same man.
Determined not to lose custody of this unborn child, Samantha fled to Ireland in the winter of 2013. She gave birth in January 2014.
However, a neighbour reported her to Irish social services and the child was taken into care. After appearing at Irish family court, the father was again given custody and the baby was transported back to the UK.
Samantha had permanently lost custody of her third child by August 2014.
A month later she had changed her name to Lucy Hart and was working for Bonnie as an au pair. In January 2015, she left Bonnie’s home.
In 2016, Samantha moved to County Geery and became Lucy Fitzwilliam and in 2017, Rebecca Fitzgerald arrived in Fermoy.
When Samantha arrived in Cahersiveen, County Kerry, in 2019, she became someone else – Carrie Jade Williams.
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