Barry John Faulkner was hoping someone would write a book about his life, but Australia’s most notorious con man didn’t even make the headlines when he died.
For more than 50 years, Faulkner has impersonated doctors, a CIA agent, a pop star and US military officers, most often posing as a commercial airline pilot.
At least since 2015, Faulkner had claimed he was going straight, but he never gave up on his criminal activities and spent his final months in Sydney prison at Long Bay due to illness.
On Monday, a coroner determined the 71-year-old had died following a cardiac arrest on January 25, 2020 at the Kevin Waller Unit for the Elderly and Infirm.
Barry John Faulkner hoped someone would one day write a book about his life, but Australia’s most notorious imposter didn’t even make the headlines when he died. Faulkner fraudulently posing as a doctor, CIA spy, US military officer and airline pilot (above)
Faulkner has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, diabetes, asthma, deep vein thrombosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, epilepsy, depression and anxiety.
In the months leading up to his death, he had suffered strokes, a hernia, shortness of breath, dizziness, seizures, left side paralysis, headaches, slurred speech, and fainting spells.
For someone whose criminal exploits have enjoyed decades of media spotlight, Faulkner’s death went unnoticed and unreported at the time.
The closest Faulkner came to true fame was when he was compared to the main character in the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can, in which Leonard DiCaprio played a fake pilot.
During his Hysteria career, Faulkner was incarcerated in Victoria, Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and New South Wales.
Faulkner claimed to have an IQ of 160, appeared regularly on the television show Australia’s Most Wanted and was once the subject of five state arrest warrants.
At least since 2015, Faulkner (above) had claimed he acted head on, but he never gave up his criminal behavior and spent his final days in Sydney prison at Long Bay due to illness
He was convicted more than 80 times and died while awaiting trial Three charges of using a carrier service to access child pornography.
Daily Mail Australia interviewed Faulkner numerous times over the years, listening to his offbeat stories and observing his physical decline.
Faulkner’s first known fraud occurred in the late 1960s when he presented himself as a gynecologist at the Royal Brisbane Hospital at the age of 19 and examined two pregnant women.
He later posed as a US Air Force and Marine Corps colonel, photographer, FedEx courier and Olympics official, all for financial reasons.
Perhaps his most daring scam was impersonating The Monkees musician Mike Nesmith, an act that Faulkner claimed even duped music guru Molly Meldrum.
But Faulkner’s most common scam was promising perks like cheap duty-free goods for cash to unsuspecting travelers while posing as a pilot.
He told Daily Mail Australia that he chose this job as his favorite pastime “because it’s glamorous”.
Faulkner’s fake airline résumé included piloting every passenger jet down to the Boeing 777 and Airbus A380, having flown attack helicopters during the Vietnam War.
Faulkner had more than 80 convictions and, after his death, had to face a county court hearing on three charges of using a carriage service to access child pornography
He claimed he knew Richard Branson from his imaginary days as chief pilot at the British billionaire’s Virgin airline.
In August 2015, he pleaded guilty in Waverley Magistrates Court in Sydney to obtaining financial advantage through deception and possession of an identity in order to commit a criminal offence.
Police had arrested Faulkner in a fake pilot’s uniform with Emirates photo ID at a cafe in an eastern suburb after he was reportedly offered flight upgrades.
Faulkner strutted around a hotel bragging to managers about piloting the A380, despite never holding a license to drive a car.
Outside the court, on that occasion, Faulkner told Daily Mail Australia that his arrest was a mistake and that he wore the uniform because he went to a Zoo Weekly magazine costume party.
“I’m totally retired,” Faulkner said. “I have regrets for all the things I’ve done.” I probably only have 18 months to live. “I haven’t done anything since 2006.”
Despite his disheveled appearance in recent years, Faulkner said he’s had a lot of money “but I can’t access it because it’s proceeds of crime.”
Faulkner impersonated a pilot (left) from airlines such as Emirates and Virgin Blue. He is pictured in 1978 posing as The Monkees guitarist and songwriter Mike Nesmith
At the time, Faulkner said his biography would become a bestseller and blamed his career as a con artist for being told as a young man he would never matter.
‘“I wanted to prove them wrong, that I can do anything,” he said.
Faulkner claimed he was consulted by American con artist Frank Abagnale – whose autobiography was adapted into Catch Me If You Can – along with DiCaprio, who played him in the film.
Two years later, Faulkner again said he would “retire” and settle down to “live a life consistent with the law.”
At the time, he was sharing a first-floor flat with his girlfriend Louise in the notorious Northcott council housing block in Sydney’s Surry Hills.
“I’ve been a pilot, I’ve been part of the CIA, I’ve been a surgeon – I’ve been many things,” he told Daily Mail Australia at the time.
“It takes a lot of work, but I did it because people said it was impossible and it was exciting.”
The closest Faulkner came to true fame was when he was compared to the main character in the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can, in which Leonard DiCaprio played a fake pilot
“Nothing upsets me more than to see a crap scammer, someone who hasn’t bothered but gets away with it.”
Faulkner hoped young people could learn from his mistakes and avoid a life of crime.
“They just don’t listen when you tell them what it’s going to cost them in the long run that it’s not worth it,” he said.
Assistant Medical Examiner Derek Lee heard the day Faulkner died that he gave his lunch of two sausage rolls to another inmate because he wasn’t hungry.
His cellmate called for help around 1:30 p.m. when he woke up to find Faulkner in bed making gurgling noises. “Barry can’t breathe properly, he’s having a seizure,” the cellmate told prison officials.
Faulkner was wheeled from cell 14 to the unit’s clinic, but suffered cardiac arrest there. He was pronounced dead at 2:22 p.m. after resuscitation failed.
Assistant Medical Examiner Derek Lee determined that Faulkner’s cause of death was heart disease, with chronic lung disease playing a role.
Faulkner’s sister spoke to the court over the phone and thanked the paramedics and prison staff who cared for her brother in the last hour of his life.
“I think they did everything they could do,” she said. “I just want to thank you for the care.”