James Howells searches for hard drive with £4m-worth of bitcoins stored

Publishedduration28 November 2013shareSharenocloseShare pagelinkCopy linkAbout sharingmedia captionJames Howells: "When I went up to the landfill site yesterday my first thought was 'I've got not chance'"

A Newport man has been searching a landfill site in south Wales hoping to find a computer hard drive he threw away which is now worth over £4m.

James Howells's hard drive contains 7,500 bitcoins – which is a virtual form of currency for use online.

It had sat in a drawer for years and he had forgotten it contained the bitcoins, which he obtained in 2009 for almost nothing, when he threw it out.

But this week, a single bitcoin's value hit $1,000 (£613) for the first time.

It means Mr Howells's collection is now worth $7.5m (£4.6m).

A few years ago Mr Howells, who works in IT, had dismantled his computer after spilling a drink on it.

"I stored a couple of parts away like the hard drive, and the rest of the bits and pieces which were still working I sold for spares," he told BBC Radio Wales.

"I kept the hard drive in a drawer in my office for three years without a second thought – totally forgot about bitcoin all together. I had been distracted by family life and moving house.

"Fast forward to 2013 which is when I had a clearout of my old IT equipment – I hadn't used this drive for over three years, I believed I'd taken everything off it… so it got thrown in the bin."

Mr Howells later realised what was left on the hard drive.

He added: "I had been hearing a few stories of a chap from Norway who had bought a number of coins for a very low price and had sold them for a high price and that's when I got back into checking the price and seeing what I'd done.

"When I found out what the price was, the penny dropped and I realised the coins I have 'mined' were on the drive I had thrown away.

"There was not a lot I could do."

Mr Howells checked all of his back up files but could not locate the coins so went to the landfill site in south Wales.

"When I went to the tip the manager took me up to the current landfill site and when I saw it – it's about the size of a football field – my first thought was 'no chance'," he said.

"The manager explained that things that were sent to landfill three or four months ago could be three to five feet deep.

"He confirmed my worst fears when he said that.

"He did mention that when people were investigating for evidence, they turn up with 15 to 20 people in full protective gear with diggers and dogs as well.

"The truth is I haven't got the funds or ability to make that happen at the moment without a definite pay cheque at the end of it."

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