IT worker throws out hard drive, loses $7.5 million Bitcoin fortune

LONDON -- An IT worker threw out a
computer hard drive without realizing
it contained $7.5 million worth of the
digital currency Bitcoin.
The device is now buried somewhere
in a vast landfill site near the home of
owner James Howells -- who only
realized his mistake when it was too
"It is soul destroying to be honest,”
Howells told NBC News on Thursday.
"I haven’t had much sleep over the
past few days. Every second of the day
I am thinking about what could have
Howells, whose ordeal was first
reported by the Guardian, worked out
the hard drive would have been taken
to a local landfill site and visited the
dump to speak to the manager.
But the hopelessness of his task
became clear when he was was told
that finding he disk would take weeks
even with a team of a dozen people
and backhoes.
"I had originally thought about raising
money to hunt for the drive, but it was
more an off-the-cuff idea. I know it’s
gone," he said.
Howells posted an image of the landfill
site on Twitter .
1:01 PM - 27 Nov 2013
James Howells
@howelzy Follow
The hard drive is so valuable because it
contains the key to 7,500 bitcoins, a
currency which exists only in the
digital world.
The currency was created in 2009 and
has recently skyrocketed in value --
hitting $1,000 per unit on Wednesday
-- having enjoyed a surge in interest by
the media and financial sector.
Howells, from Newport, in South
Wales, created his 7,500 bitcoins in
2009, when the new currency was
only known in niche circles and of little
"It was just after the financial crash
and when I found out about Bitcoin it
seemed to me to be the perfect
alternative," he said. "I knew it was
going to be huge."
The 28-year-old "mined" the currency
by running a computer program on his
Dell laptop for almost a week,
eventually having to turn it off because
his girlfriend complained the fans in
the machine were getting too hot and
noisy at night.
Howells said he was forced to take the
hard drive out of the laptop in 2010
when he poured a soft drink over the
keyboard, and over the next three
years it remained forgotten in his desk
He does not know exactly when he
threw it away, but said it was at some
point this summer.
In the meantime. Bitcoin's popularity
had exploded into the mainstream.
Norwegian investor Kristoffer Koch
made about $800,000 when he
bought $27 worth of bitcoins and
forgot about them. And before it was
closed by the FBI in October the illegal
online marketplace Silk Road used
Bitcoin to trade goods including drugs
and weapons.
It was further pushed into the
mainstream when Richard Branson
announced this week that people
would be able to pay for Virgin
Galactic space flights using the
currency. The first Bitcoin ATM
machine opened in Vancouver,
Canada, last month.
Howells only realized what he had
done last Friday.
"I started hearing all these stories
about people making money from
Bitcoin, and basically the penny just
dropped and I remembered the
bitcoins on the hard drive I had
thrown away,” he said. “I have turned
my house upside down looking for it,
but I know deep down I threw it
However, he refused to be too
downbeat about the episode, and is
now concentrating on the next
opportunity the internet might bring.
"I am not about to jump off a bridge
or anything," he said. "There's always
going to be another opportunity."