TikTok Scammer Stripped of Prestigious Literary Prize – VICE

The Financial Times has withdrawn a prestigious literary prize after VICE World News revealed that the winning author was a serial scammer who had left a trail of lies and broken friendships in her wake. 
The 2020 Bodley Head/FT Literature Prize was awarded to a woman going under the name “Carrie Jade Williams” for her essay about living with a disability, which she said was written using assistive technology.  
On the 9th of December, VICE World News unmasked  “Carrie Jade Williams” as a scammer and convicted fraudster whose real name is Samantha Cookes. Cookes has spent a decade evading law enforcement in Ireland by regularly changing her name and moving between towns. 
According to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, the essay was still available on the FT’s website on the 7th of December, but by the 9th of December, it had been removed. 
A spokesperson for the FT said: “Based on the information that has come to light we made the decision to remove the essay from our website.
“We have also discussed this with Bodley Head, our partners in the prize. The 2020 essay was read and judged in good faith and on literary merit. We have both reached out to the author to respond to the claims made in the article, and have received no response. We remain open to hearing from the author, but in the meantime we will withdraw her prize win and Bodley Head will make the ebook unavailable.”
A number of literary sites and the Newstalk website have also quietly removed all mention of “Carrie Jade Williams” from their pages.
A profile for her still remains live on the Penguin publishing house’s website, which is parent company to Bodley Head, and a link to her winning essay leads readers to Amazon where it can still be downloaded. Penguin did not respond to requests for comment, either for this story or our original investigation. 
Under her Williams alias, Cookes presented herself as a brave woman who had been adopted from an Irish mother-and-baby home and was living with Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that is carried in families. 
Her relatives told VICE World News that she had not been adopted and there was no history of Huntington’s in the family. Suspicion about the veracity of her story was first raised online after she claimed Airbnb guests were suing her for £450,000, saying they were upset by seeing disability aids in her home. She claimed they’d said they were so triggered by the items in her home, such as her doorbell, specially adapted kettle and glasses which they’d mistaken for disability aids, that they’d needed extensive therapy. 
The Independent’s Indy100 site initially ran two stories about “Williams” Airbnb saga, one of which has since been removed. The Independent has not responded to our requests for comment.
VICE World News spent two months investigating the claims and interviewed women who had trusted Cookes to care for their children and given her large sums of money, and were left distraught by the chaos she had wrought in their lives. Telling us how she had operated under a number of pseudonyms, they expressed their fear at the fact she remains at large. The Gardai, Ireland’s police force, had been contacted by concerned parents over the years, but it does not seem to have made any significant effort to track her down and did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The lack of action by Gardai has angered many, including the women we interviewed, who had reported Cookes on several occasions. One former friend of Cookes, Julie Lee, said that when she contacted the Gardai in 2017 to report that she was posing as a therapist, they had told her they held a “thick file” on Cookes and were actively looking for her. Despite this and a corresponding report from a local headteacher, Cookes was able to leave town in August 2017 and effectively disappear. 
VICE World News also contacted police commissioner Drew Harris but received no reply. 
Following publication of our investigation, VICE World News was contacted by Abby Beall, the features editor of New Scientist, who said “Williams” had contacted her last year, attempting to sell a story about a supposedly groundbreaking brain surgery she was due to have. Beall said she dropped the story after asking her a few questions and “realising that it made no sense”.
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