Every day friends ask for money to get them out of trouble. The average price seems to be pounds 8,000

Winning the Lottery has become a national fantasy. Tomorrow week is its first birthday. Many happy returns? David Cohen listened to dreams (and nightmares) come true. Photographs by Dod Miller
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Mike Antonucci, 47, an antique dealer, was pounds 100,000 in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy when he won pounds 2.8 million in July - the biggest lottery win in the southwest. He is a bachelor and lives with his 74-year-old mother, Ivy, in a tiny flat at the back of his shop in Plymouth

On the day I saw him, Mike Antonucci spent pounds l,000,000 before lunch. He picked me up at the station in his new white Mercedes 190E, then completed on three investment properties: a garage, a building that houses a pub and an undeveloped waterfront site.

In the afternoon, he accompanies his solicitor to the small claims court to fight a case that pre-dated his lottery windfall. He loses the case with costs and has to fork out pounds 6,000. Before his win, such a loss would have bankrupted him.

At 47, Mike is a walking contradiction. On the one hand, he likes to give off a crude, playboy image at ease with his newfound wealth - gold chains dangle ostentatiously from each wrist and from around his neck, sexist comments trip from his tongue, delusions of omnipotence swirl around his brain. On the other, he is still the vulnerable, 47-year-old homeboy who lives with his mother at the back of the shop that, when his father was alive, was "the best fish and chip shop in Plymouth".

On the walk back from chambers, people greet him warmly in the streets. His smile returns. He has become, he confesses, "a bit of a local hero". His mobile phone rings. Over the din of passing traffic, he shouts instructions to his estate agent who is negotiating to buy a mansion on the other side of town for his private residence. "Tell them I won't pay a penny over pounds 140,000. Take it or leave it." Half an hour later, Mike has second thoughts, increases his offer by pounds 40,000 and buys the mansion for pounds 180,000. "Cracking property," he says. "It has a 12-foot wall and a guard on the gate. With the crime rate these days, I want to feel secure."

I ask him how it feels to spend half his winnings in one day. "I'd really ... rather ... really have the money in the bank," he stammers anxiously. Then he reassures himself, resuming his upbeat tone. "Everything I've bought is desirable and saleable. I could sit on the money and earn pounds 80,000 a year in interest. But I'd be bored. Winning the lottery has given me the opportunity to explore my talents, to express myself. I'm a wheeler-dealer by nature and I plan to double my money within 12 months. The secret is to know when to open your wallet. And when to close it."

As if to emphasise the point, he spins a coin to decide who will pay for our coffee. He wins and grins. I pay.

It is just 11 weeks since Mike was catapulted from skid row to instant multi-millionaire status. "Before I won, my business was at its lowest ebb; my life was an endless cycle of work and debts. I hadn't been on holiday for seven years," he says.

Every week, he spent a fiver on the lottery. "On the night I won, I was sitting at home with mother, ticking off the numbers as they came through on the draw. It took me a few minutes to click that I'd won. When I told mother, I was worried that she might have a heart attack. That night I went out for a whiskey on my own. I told someone at the club that I'd won, but they just laughed. Nobody believed me. I had this piece of paper worth pounds 2.8 million burning a hole in my pocket and all I could think was: where can I find a safe place to keep it?"

The first thing Mike did, after paying off his debts, was to take a holiday in Gran Canaria. He wanted companionship, so he asked two young women - "just friends who work at the local pub" - whether they wanted to accompany him on an all-expenses paid trip. "I prefer low-mileage women, ones who haven't been married three times," he explains. The holiday was relaxing but the girls snubbed him as soon as they got there.

"Things haven't worked out for me on the romance front," he admits. "I had a girlfriend for years but we drifted apart and went our separate ways. The difference now is that I'm so busy, I don't have time to bother about women. Money buys me what I want. Perhaps for my mansion, I'll hire a French au pair for a bit of ooh-la-la."

So has Mike changed since his win? "The only difference," says his sister Maria, a 38-year-old mother of two children, "is that before I could sit down and speak to him, but now he doesn't have time for me." Maria has been trying unsuccessfully to attract Mike's attention all afternoon. She needs to ask him about a rumour she has heard that he plans to move (it impacts on her directly because she relies on her mother for after- school childcare) and about the state of her house. "He gave me pounds 7,000 to pay off my credit card debts and for that I'm very grateful. But if you saw my house - my bath has got a hole in it, the place is falling down... I feel, if I'm honest, that he could help me with the house as a priority before he sinks all his money into investments."

The relationship between Mike and his sister has already shifted. Maria worked as a bookkeeper for a firm of accountants, but now she is employed by Mike to do his administration. He pays her exactly the same as her previous employer - pounds 9,300 a year - with the advantage that she now has more flexibility with her hours.

Why doesn't he give his own sister a pay rise? "Since I've won, everyone expects a little piece of me" he says. "Every day, friends ask me for money. The average price "to get themselves out of trouble" always seems to be pounds 8,000. It's hard, but I've had to draw the line somewhere.

"I've had stacks of begging letters. Some addressed simply to 'Mr Antonucci, lottery winner, Plymouth'. I gave pounds 500 to each of the local football clubs. For the rest, I've invested in a coal fire."

Mike presents an inscrutable front, but in the cracks between his hectic schedule, there are moments where he seems almost melancholic. He covers it up almost immediately by becoming frenetic again. After fending off a sad-faced independent financial adviser ("You can't believe how many of those guys have come to see me.") he jumps into his Merc and idles down a cul-de-sac where he switches off the engine and stares longingly at Drake's Island in the middle of Plymouth Bay.

"I tried to buy it for pounds 350,000, but it went to someone who offered more. I could have lived on it, had my own private beach," he sighs, the appeal of his mansion momentarily diminished. Has money made him happier? "Sure. Money is power. I'm getting to love it more and more," he says.

In the living room at the back of the shop, Mike's elderly mother sits hunched over her knitting and watches the afternoon horse racing on the television. She likes to pick a horse before the race and make imaginary bets to keep herself entertained.

What does Mike's win mean to her? "We don't have to worry about bills any more. But otherwise, it won't make a jot of difference. I'm too old to move. We'll do the place up, but we'll continue to live here," she says, motioning to walls with decaying plaster and holes the size of small cannonballs. Mike hasn't had time to tell her that he has just bought a pounds 180,000 mansion.

A few weeks after we won, my uncle's brother-in-law scooped pounds 2.8 million. Then Tracey's cousin was in a syndicate that won pounds 2.4 million

Gary and Tracey Hipkiss were living on pounds 30 a week when they won pounds 265,637 in December. Gary, 31, is a security guard and Tracey, 30, is a housewife. They live in Dudley Port on the outskirts of Birmingham with their two children, Clair, 10 and Robbie, 8. This is Gary's story

A few weeks after the lottery began, I had a dream in which we picked numbers on my son's toy bingo machine and won. The dream seemed so real that when I awoke we fetched the machine and took turns to draw six numbers. We took our last pounds 5 of the week and put it on the lottery, and then I told everybody I knew that we were going to win. That night, while I was at work guarding a bus depot, I watched it on the telly and the very first numbers that we drew were the ones that won. I went mental. I locked up the site, dashed home, phoned Tracey, phoned our families, phoned Camelot. We were all screaming, especially the kids.

We didn't know how much we'd won. We had five numbers plus the bonus number, so we knew it wasn't millions. All we hoped for was pounds 30,000, enough to pay off our debts and take the edge off our stress. My job is 12 hours a night, seven nights a week, for pounds 2.60 an hour. After basic bills, we had pounds 3O a week to buy food and live off. Those hours and that kind of financial stress take its toll on a marriage and at one point, Tracey and I separated for nine months.

Winning pounds 265,637 was incredibly exciting. We drew pounds 12,000 and put it in envelopes for our parents, brothers and sisters. Everyone got the same. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to give.

The next we knew the press were on to us. We think that one of Tracey's brothers phoned the Sun, which at the time, was offering a pounds 10,000 reward if a tip led to an interview. Camelot advised us that the only way to stop them bothering us was to hold a press conference. We did, but the pestering didn't stop. At the same time, some of our extended family were finding our win difficult to handle. They kept phoning us up and bursting into tears. One of them even took briefly to the bottle.

Then things started to spiral. We lived in a council house on an estate and although most of our neighbours were wonderful, a few bad eggs started making our lives a misery. They tried to break in, then they threw broken bottles at our new 4-wheel drive Vauxhall. To cap it all, we started getting dozens of cranky phone calls. They'd either say nothing, or put the phone down, or ask for people we didn't know. We had to have the phone disconnected.

The pressure caused a lot of tension between Tracey and myself and we started to argue. We liked our council house (we were going to buy it for pounds 25,000) and our community and we didn't want to move, but the aggro drove us out and in the end, we couldn't wait to leave. We found a new home a few miles away and bought a caravan to live in while we did it up. But the tabloid press tailed us to our new address. Every week, we'd have a reporter knocking on our door, moaning: 'I need a story. My boss won't let me leave without one'.

I wanted to buy a 40-foot, six-berth cabin cruiser and head for the sea, across to France and just keep on going. But Tracey said she didn't like the water. And to be realistic, although the amount we've won is a lot, it isn't enough to retire on. So, instead, I took two weeks leave and we went for a holiday to Switzerland. One night, while we were there, I had pains in my chest and I couldn't breathe. I thought I was having a heart attack. The doctor said it was a mild stroke caused by a build- up of stress. He told me stay in bed and advised me to change my job and see a counsellor.

I still haven't left my job. By a twist of fate, the same week that I won the lottery, I was made up to deputy shop steward in the union, something I'd always aimed for. My dad works at the same firm and I'm committed to fighting for a decent wage for all of the lads. We get paid less than cleaners. I know I should leave and I desperately want to leave. But I don't want the lads to feel that I've let them down or to be able to say that the money's changed Gary Hipkiss.

The kids have had a difficult time. Robbie loved the attention of being a winner and apparently kept bragging about it. One day his teacher grabbed him and shouted at him to stop going on about the lottery. I went to see the headmaster and threatened to lay his teacher out. I was so angry that they should pick on him just because we won. After that we moved schools, but Clair has been a bit miserable, missing her old friends.

Despite everything, I'm still mega-pleased we've won. The feeling of never having to worry about bills outweighs all the short-term trouble we've had. I love going into smart shops dressed as my usual scruffy self and surprising shopkeepers who think I can't afford anything. We've had loads of fun with the money. Apart from the house, the car and the caravan, we've bought a new 680-watt, compact disc stereo system complete with pro-logic Dolby 'surround sound' [the effect is like sitting in a cinema]; a television for every room; an 80cc off-road scrambler for Robbie; three porcelain dolls for Tracey (she's a collector), two Penny Blacks for my stamp album; a dinghy; a multi-gym (the doctor said I need exercise); five train sets, the complete set of Disney videos; a tank of tropical fish, some finches and two chipmunks. And for next year, to get Tracey used to the water, we've booked a cruise. We've spent pounds 140,000, which is pounds 40,000 more than our bank manager advised. The rest we've invested for our children's future.

The most extraordinary thing is that we're not the only ones in our family to have won. A few weeks after we won, my uncle's brother-in-law scooped pounds 2.8 million. He gave some money to his family and then with all the hounding from the press, he disappeared. Nobody's seen or heard from him since. Then Tracey's cousin was in a syndicate that won pounds 2.4 million and his share was pounds 170,000. He bought a new house and between us moving and him moving, we don't know where he lives now either.

Winning is great, but the pressure that comes with it is hard for ordinary folk to handle. If we won again, and believe me every week we hope we do, I'd take the cheque and tell nowt. But the first time, you are so excited you just go out and tell the world.

My brother kept repeating 'pounds 2.4 million, 2.4 million.' I kept thinking: 'Why us? Why me?'

The Pensioners and the retired Family (

May and Bob Carruthers, both pensioners aged 67, won pounds 2.4 million on the lottery in April. Before they retired 11 years ago, Bob was an ambulance driver and May a life insurance saleswoman. They live in Silksworth, Sunderland, and have three daughters, Ann, 43, Audrey, 39 and Lynn, 38, all of whom live with their husbands and children within a hundred yards of their front door

The way Bob Carruthers deals with winning the lottery is by trying to forget that he's won. "He hates change - I thought winning might be too much for him," says his wife, May, discreetly, making sure everyone in her blue-carpeted kitchen is in receipt of a cup of tea and a biscuit. Bob hovers behind his daughter Lynn, blank lottery coupons in hand, engrossed in trying to decide what numbers to select for the coming week's draw. May smiles, rests her cup on a "Caribbean Cruise" brochure and, bending to retrieve a little wooden box from the kitchen drawer, launches into her favourite story.

"There are 49 numbers written on little pieces of paper in this box," she begins. "Every week I dip my hand in and pick six. It's a nice system because it saves us the hassle of thinking. That Saturday, I was dashing out to watch my grandchild at the local youth theatre and Bob yelled: 'May, you haven't done your lottery'. So I fished out five numbers and was about to pull a sixth when Bob said: 'Wait, there's one number that jumped out when you pulled the others.' So I said: 'Right, take that one then.'

"That night," continues May, "I came in at about 11pm and as I walked upstairs to bed, I shouted to Bob,: ' Did you check the lottery numbers?' A few minutes later, he calls: 'May, will you come down a minute? We've got the six numbers, but must we have the bonus number as well?' I shouted: 'Look I'm shattered. Can't you check six numbers without my help?' Then I looked at the numbers and said: 'No. You must have made a mistake.' So we jumped in the Peugeot and drove round to my brother's place to check the numbers against his teletext. And there they were! It showed that there were four winners getting pounds 2.4 million each. We looked at one another in silence and disbelief. My brother kept repeating 'pounds 2.4 million, 2.4 million.' I kept thinking: 'Why us? Why me?'

"It was always an unspoken agreement that if we won the lottery, we would share it with our children. Bob and I were financially comfortable before we won - we own our house and have a monthly income from our pensions of about pounds 1,000 - but our children were struggling. To be able to give each one of them pounds 500,000 and set them up for life is what every mother dreams of."

As she talks, the room fills up with daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren. There is John, 38, the husband of Lynn, his arms covered in tattoos, a chunky ring on every finger; Ken, 43, who owned a butcher's shop until he had a heart attack last year, and John (Junior), 29, Audrey's "toyboy" (the family's description), who was unemployed. It is midday but none have work commitments. They have all retired. So it's more tea and biccies all round.

"I was a 'get' at M&S - you know, get this, get that," grins the elder John, rolling himself a cigarette. "Lynn was a cashier at Sainsbury's. We got by, but after 19 years in the warehouse, I was sick of it, ready for the off like."

"John has totally changed since he left Marksies," says Lynn. "He's got back his sense of humour and he's opened up. We're both taking a year off work and then we'll decide on something fun and relaxing to do. The best part is that we get on better - 99 per cent of our arguments used to be about money."

May looks over her brood approvingly. "At first, I lay awake worrying: Would it change the children? Would it split up the family? One morning at breakfast, I broke down and cried. 'Bob,' I said. 'Are you going to run off with another woman?' We've been sweethearts since the age of 13, he's my best friend, you never know what money can do. He came over and hugged me and then he said: 'Me? Leave you? I'm like a postage stamp stuck to your backside.'

"We used to talk about what we'd do if we won the lottery - new house, new car, a cruise. But when you actually win, you haven't a clue where to start. We looked at a pounds 250,000 house in the expensive part of Sunderland where all the upper-middle class business executive types live. It has half an acre of secluded gardens, a snooker room, the lot, and I could see myself sitting there, I really could. Then we thought: we've been living in Silksworth 40 years. If we moved, we'd lose our neighbours and friends. We'd be isolating ourselves. So we stayed."

But can they live as millionaires in a struggling, working class neighbourhood without provoking jealousy? May lowers her voice as if sharing a secret. "All the neighbours have been so generous. They say: 'It's so lovely to know that ordinary people can win.' The way to keep your neighbours as friends is not to brag about or flaunt your wealth. Apart from a new Range Rover [top of the range with sunroof costing pounds 43,000], two caravans [pounds 17,000], a cruise to New York on the QE2 and returning by Concorde, we've spent very little. Also, we were lucky that we didn't win pounds l0 million because then we couldn't continue to live here. By sharing it with our daughters, we have not only reduced the size of our win, but the joy is multiplied."

Although John and Lynn are moving to a bigger house, it's only from one end of the road to the other. For their part, Ken, Audrey and the kids have just returned from Disneyland which they liked so much that they bought a villa there. Ken makes his excuses and leaves. He has to wire pounds 100,000 to Florida.

All the while Bob has been silent. "We'll not change my dear," he says to May. "Not our essence. Not our personality," they both chirp in unison, like two lovebirds reassuring each other. "I like a little gamble," smiles Bob. "I played the pools for years but I never won a sausage. Win or lose, I still go twice a week to my engineering club where we build model steam engines and drink orange juice," he says.

So far, the lottery has thrown up 270 jackpot winners and 113 millionaires, 80 per cent of whom have chosen to remain anonymous. The largest anonymous win is for a ticket that scooped pounds 17 million.

The first mega-rollover jackpot win went to Mukhtar Mohidin, 40, a factory worker from Blackburn, who won pounds 17.9 million last December and who tried unsuccessfully to remain anonymous. The resulting pressure from press, family and friends allegedly forced him to change his name and move with his wife and three children to the Home Counties. Reports of dissension within the marriage and vitriolic disputes over whose relatives are to get what appear periodically in the press.

The biggest winning ticket so far was held by Mark Gardener, a double glazer from Hastings, and Paul Maddison who shared pounds 22 million in June. Gardener was viciously attacked through the tabloids by almost everyone who knew him. "I hope he drinks himself to death," his adoptive mother shrieked, adding that he was a "callous, sponging, violent drunk" who hadn't paid a penny in maintenance to his two previous wives and their children. His ex-wife branded him "a cheating rat" and demanded her cut as their decree absolute hadn't yet come through (she settled for pounds l million). Then his biological mother waded in, saying: "I have a vision of Mark finishing up with a Ferrari going into a brick wall - and I hope it's tomorrow." Finally a "one-time best friend", who allegedly once saved his life, said that he regretted it as "the worst thing I ever did". His solicitor has advised him never to speak to the press again and says that "winning the lottery has led to a lot of upset in his life and made him bloody miserable." But Alison Howard, a press officer for Camelot, maintains that "despite negative publicity, he still says that winning the lottery is the best thing that's ever happened to him."

The highest profile spend, spend, spend candidates are Lee Ryan, 32, and his wife Karen Taylor, 35, who were unemployed and living on a council estate in Leicester when they won pounds 6.5 million in March. Ryan has splashed out pounds 500,000 on a fleet of cars (including a Ferrari Testarossa, Jaguar, Bentley, Porsche and BMW convertible), pounds 250,000 on a helicopter and pounds 700,000 on a country mansion. But he finishes the year in prison after receiving an 18-month sentence for handling stolen cars, an offence committed prior to his win.

The most popular number combination each week is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, played by approximately 10,000 people. In January, more than pounds 16 million was divided between 133 winners, giving pounds 122,000, the smallest jackpot win so far.

Only 60 per cent of jackpot winners take up the free advice session from Camelot's team of independent financial and legal advisers.

According to a survey quoted in the Sun, "a LOT of women keep their lottery tickets in their bras" for safe keeping. The Sun advises them to "keep a scratchcard there, too".

What happens at Camelot

The moment a winner telephones the Camelot number in Aintree, Camelot's winners' team swings into action. The first step is a precautionary one, to distinguish hoaxes from real winners. Callers are quizzed about the time and place the winning tickets were bought and this information is checked against the data stored on the computer. If the win is a big one - say pounds 1 million plus, then a member of Camelot's team of advisers arranges to go to the winner's home. The team comprises an ex-policeman and two psychologists, whose identity is kept secret to protect them from an over- eager press corps. (Camelot won't even allow them to be interviewed over the telephone.) The team's job is to hold the winner's hand through all the practical decisions and emotional vicissitudes of the next few days, weeks and even months.

Louise White, co-ordinater of Camelot's team of advisers, says: "Our immediate advice is not to tell anyone bar the immediate family that they've won. Otherwise, their first major decision - whether to go public or not - is taken out of our hands. Typically, winners are in shock and subject to hugely volatile mood swings - from euphoria to fear as to how the changes will impact their lives - so it's difficult for them to be rational. One winner was so excited that he ran down his street knocking on every door telling everyone that he'd won the lottery. Later, when he calmed down, he decided that he didn't want publicity, so he went back knocking on every door and told everyone he hadn't won the lottery. Well you can imagine..."

If a winner elects to go public, then a press conference is arranged. But if they decide against, or are undecided, and the press have somehow sniffed them out, then the winner's adviser will try to protect them. This might entail hiding winners at a secret location until the next big winner comes along and media attention shifts.

The next decision for winners is what to do with the money. They may opt for a free three-hour session with an accountant and a solicitor. This offer is taken up by 60 per cent of winners. Some winners who have never dealt with financial professionals, feel daunted by the prospect. The job of the winner's adviser is to support them through this process.

Simon Philip, a senior manager at the accounting firm Binder Hamlyn, and a member of the winners' panel, says: "The first thing we advise people is to make a will. Then we ask about their lifestyle and dreams and talk them through investment strategies that can help them achieve those dreams. So far it has proved to be a middle-England type assignment. People are very cautious, keen to preserve their windfall and set themselves and their families up for future generations. We have seen very few spend, spend, spend candidates. We also deal with the inheritance tax implications of making gifts and income tax. Most winners become literate in personal finance very quickly.

It used to be that only ten per cent of British adults gambled once a week, but since 12 November 1994 that figure has grown to 66 per cent and is rising. Thirty million adults spend pounds 60 million on the lottery and pounds 30 million on scratchcards every week [ital], making it the biggest lottery in the world in terms of prize money. About 115 winners have become "instant" millionaires, for them, the lottery dream has come true and has altered their lives forever.

Note: Statistics accurate to 9 October 1995.

So far, the lottery has thrown up 270 jackpot winners and 113 millionaires, 80 per cent of whom have chosen to remain anonymous. The largest anonymous win is for a ticket that scooped pounds 17 million.

The first mega-rollover jackpot win went to Mukhtar Mohidin, 40, a factory worker from Blackburn, who won pounds 17.9 million last December and who tried unsuccessfully to remain anonymous. The resulting pressure from press, family and friends allegedly forced him to change his name and move with his wife and three children to the Home Counties. Reports of dissension within the marriage and vitriolic disputes over whose relatives are to get what appear periodically in the press.

The biggest winning ticket so far was held by Mark Gardener, a double glazer from Hastings, and Paul Maddison who shared a jackpot of pounds 22 million in June. Gardener was viciously attacked through the tabloids by almost everyone who knew him. "I hope he drinks himself to death," his adoptive mother shrieked, adding that he was a "callous, sponging, violent drunk" who hadn't paid a penny in maintenance to his two previous wives and their children. His ex-wife branded him "a cheating rat" and demanded her cut as their decree absolute hadn't yet come through (she settled for pounds l million). Then his biological mother waded in, saying: "I have a vision of Mark finishing up with a Ferrari going into a brick wall - and I hope it's tomorrow." Finally a "one-time best friend", who allegedly once saved his life, said that he regretted it as "the worst thing I ever did". His solicitor has advised him never to speak to the press again and says that "winning the lottery has led to a lot of upset in his life and made him bloody miserable." But Alison Howard, a press officer for Camelot, maintains that "despite negative publicity, he still says that winning the lottery is the best thing that's ever happened to him."

The highest profile spend, spend, spend candidates are Lee Ryan, 32, and his wife Karen Taylor, 35, who were unemployed and living on a council estate in Leicester when they won pounds 6.5 million in March. Ryan has splashed out pounds 500,000 on a fleet of cars (including a Ferrari Testarossa, Jaguar, Bentley, Porsche and BMW convertible), pounds 250,000 on a helicopter and pounds 700,000 on a country mansion. But he finishes the year in prison after receiving an 18-month sentence for handling stolen cars, an offence committed prior to his win.

The most popular number combination each week is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, played by approximately 10,000 people. In January, more than pounds 16 million was divided between 133 winners, giving pounds 122,000, the smallest jackpot win so far.

Only 60 per cent of jackpot winners take up the free advice session from Camelot's team of independent financial and legal advisers.

According to a survey quoted in the Sun, "a lot of women keep their lottery tickets in their bras" for safe keeping. The Sun advises them to "keep a scratchcard there, too".

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