Even by the standards of the most successful pop stars, aristocrats and business tycoons, Mark Gardiner's pounds 11.3m fortune is an impressive sum. So the double-glazing salesman, who became a millionaire overnight last year on the National Lottery, should have been as at home as anyone at the exclusive Sandy Lane Hotel and Golf Club in Barbados, where he was staying this week with his wife and 11 friends from their local pub in Hastings.

Instead, it was reported, the other guests found them "vulgar", were upset by their flip-flops, "market clothes" and beer-bellies, and concluded they would look more at home "on the beachfront at Skegness" rather than the pounds 800 a night hotel. For Mr Gardiner, 33, it was just the latest episode in a year of personal attacks, public scrutiny and curiosity over a new species, the lottery jackpot winner. What had they done to be the chosen ones?

From the moment Mark Gardiner and his business partner in the double- glazing firm collected their pounds 22.6m lottery prize, which they shared, they were under the microscope. They arrived at Camelot's headquarters in Watford in shell-suits, changed into pounds 140 Next suits for the cameras, and laid their lives open for scrutiny to an intrigued nation. Everyone wanted to see just who the celestial hand that points down in lottery advertisements had blessed.

The vilification came quickly. Mr Gardiner was branded a "lottery rat" who had left a string of wives, drank to excess and did not give any money to his neediest relatives. His house was robbed, he had beer poured over him by jealous onlookers who branded him a "rich bastard" and his ex-wife attempted to gain his fortune. Within months he claimed the jackpot had ruined his life and he was a "prisoner" of his new-found wealth. His adoptive mother dealt the most damning blow: "If God was in his heaven, he wouldn't have given the money to him," she said.

For Camelot, it has proved a PR disappointment that no obvious heroes or overtly worthy individuals have publicly won the lottery. For critics, including the Church of England, it was more evidence that the game was a materialistic nightmare that encouraged a something for nothing society. "It appears for a number of people who have won these fortunes, it has brought them a considerable degree of misery," said a Church House spokesman.

According to his friends, Mr Gardiner is a "normal bloke" who is no more or less worthy than most to benefit from an overnight fortune. They say the latest attack on him and his friends, who will return home on Concorde, is jealousy hiding behind the great British weapon, snobbery.

"Before he won he used to play darts for the team, and he'd buy everyone a drink. He'd have a laugh, and he loves a joke. I think it comes as a shock, as it would to anyone, but after he got back into how he was," said a friend from the Royal Standard pub, who did not wish to be named.

"He was very unhappy at first, he wasn't himself. Now he is and I hope they're having a good time out there in Barbados. A lot of them are very well-respected people, they always wear suits in Hastings and I can't see that they're going to dress down away from home, they'd dress up if anything. It's as if people want to hear they're having a bad time out there. But they know how to enjoy themselves, and I hope they're having a great time."

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