real life

Carrie Jade Williams does not exist: How a serial fraudster duped the internet.

It all started in November 2020. After being diagnosed with the degenerative Huntington's Disease, Carrie Jade Williams decided to put her feelings about it into an essay, titled 'My brain is in a battle it will lose'.

She could no longer write or hold a pen, so she apparently wrote the essay with the help of assisted technology. Her words were so moving, she won the Financial Times' Bodley Head/FT Essay Prize, becoming the next exciting literary talent to watch.

Carrie's story tugged at the hearts of many, and the woman in her 30s became an online voice for those living with a disability. In early 2022, she took that voice over to TikTok to share how Airbnb guests had been so triggered by disability aids in her home, they were suing her for £450,000. 

"I know able-ism exists, and I've experienced it," she said through tears in a video.

It sounded like an unjust story that very much deserved the outcry it generated. 

The only thing is, Carrie Jade Williams... doesn't exist. She is a complete work of fiction.

Video: Real Identity Behind Serial Fraudster With 40 Aliases. Post continues below.

Video via A Current Affair.

Carrie Jade is really Samantha Cookes. 

A new podcast, Carrie Jade Does Not Exist, hosted by Sue Perkins and journalist Katherine Denkinson, looks into the bizarre story of this woman's hoax, and how she took on six different identities over the years to scam vulnerable people and families. It was Katherine who uncovered the truth and revealed it in a Vice magazine exposé: Carrie was, in fact, serial fraudster Samantha Cookes. 


The journalist had grown suspicious when the Airbnb saga went viral. She found that Airbnb had no record of any complaint or pending lawsuit, while a lawyer dismissed the validity of the lawsuit as described by Cookes to her 18,000 followers. 

Far from a literary crusader, Cookes has been running from law enforcement in Ireland for more than 10 years, sliding between the cracks by frequently changing her name and remaining on the move. 

Her aliases included au pair Lucy Hart and surrogate mother Claudia Bronwyn. Then, more socially conscious personalities, like disability activist Carrie Jade; there was Rebecca Fitzgerald - an autism therapist - and domestic violence refuge owner Lucy Fitzwilliam.  

Calling herself Lucy Fitzwilliam in early 2016, Cookes began befriending local families in Dublin. One local mother, Lynn McDonald, told Vice that in June of that year, Cookes offered some families a trip to magical Lapland for Christmas, which never happened. And despite police getting involved, there were no charges, and the families lost their €500 = around $800 AUD - to 'Lucy'. 

Cookes gained widespread attention on TikTok. Images: Social media.


The following year, Cookes made her way to Fermoy, a town near Cork. Here, she became Rebecca, a supposedly qualified autism therapist who claimed she could teach non-speaking autistic kids to speak in just two months. She lived and worked with a local family, and at the kids' community centre and school. 

Taxi driver Julie Lee cottoned on to "Rebecca's" fraudulent ways early on. Julie would drive her from house to house, and after entering the taxi penniless, she would make the return trip with hundreds of pounds. "That's how I knew what she was doing," Julie says, adding that Cookes asked her if she'd like a job at a clinic she was opening for children. She then asked for Julie's passport and money.

When the concerned taxi driver contacted the Garda (Irish police) about Rebecca, they said they'd been keeping track of her. But she soon disappeared once again. 


Under the pseudonym Claudia, Cookes was eventually charged with fraud after she set up a Facebook page under the false name, and managed to convince a couple desperate to be parents to hand over more than $2,200 (AUD) for her supposed surrogate services. They got nothing from the exchange, but Cookes got nine months in jail, which was converted to a suspended sentence. 

A literary liar.

"When I received my diagnosis, I wrote a bucket list and decided I wanted to write a novel to leave behind, and that's really how my writing started," Cookes, posing as Carrie Jade, told the Financial Times. "Getting a diagnosis that means you'll stop being able to communicate is terrifying, but writing gave me back my voice."

Winning that essay gave Cookes a platform like never before, and soon enough she was speaking at festivals in County Kerry, Ireland, and appearing as a special guest on podcasts and writers' workshops in person and online. By 2021, she had moved to Kenmare and was running her own bogus writing competitions, swindling around $13 per entry and dangling the prize of almost $65,000 bursaries that didn't exist.

Other victims spoke of how Cookes, as Williams, offered them roles at a made-up company.

When a scam was nearing its end, she'd simply stop returning emails or answering phone calls. 

In interviews, Cookes claimed she didn't find out she had Huntington's until she was 31 because she was adopted and didn't have the required medical history to make the connection.  

But according to Cookes' cousin, Cookes was not adopted, and has two older half-brothers and no sisters. There is no family history of Huntington's, the cousin and another of Cookes' relatives told Vice.


A sad history behind the scams.

Cookes' lies began to unravel quickly. Image: Social media. 

For all her untruths, Cookes has had her share of tragedy, involving the loss of a child and other children being taken away from her over the years. 

In 2008, after leaving university in her first year, Cookes gave birth to a baby girl called Martha. The baby died at four months old, an inquest finding she had passed away from SIDS. 

In 2010, Cookes began a relationship with a man and together they had a child, and a second in 2012. She gave birth to their third child in January 2014, but due to mental health problems, she had lost custody of all three children by August of that year. 


A month later, she was masquerading as au pair Lucy Hart.

Bonnie*, a woman who employed Cookes a short time later, and her kids "loved" their new nanny from the start. 

"She was so convincing, and really lovely in the interview we had," Bonnie recalled. 

Over time, Lucy's elaborate tales didn't seem to add up, and when Bonnie questioned her one day, the nanny lost it. Soon after, Cookes (as Lucy) said she was going on a writing retreat and was never seen by the family again.

When Bonnie went to clean out the nanny's room, she found documents about visitation rights for Lucy's child, and a letter which chillingly read: "I stand shoulder to shoulder with the coroner and I did not murder my daughter. I pray she is at peace."

Cookes is now MIA.

Weeks after journalist Katherine Denkinson tracked down Cookes' address in Ireland and attempted - and failed - to speak to her in person, Cookes fled the home in the middle of the night, owing her shared landlord thousands in back-rent. Now, Cookes has vanished.

Perhaps even more worrying than her scams and false stories? How the in-depth Vice article noted that "every woman we spoke to for this story expressed concern for their safety over how Cookes would react after her lies were exposed."

Bonnie said, "I let this person into my home with my small children… it's chilling [to think she is still out there]."

Feature Image: Supplied.

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