Lottery husband loses out to wife

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The Independent Online
A NATIONAL Lottery winner was last night celebrating a second cash windfall after a judge ruled she was entitled to her ex-husband's pounds 265,000 share of a syndicate jackpot as well as her own. Lotte Gunderson, 38, claimed the share of her former husband, Anthony Abrahams, because she paid all his pounds 1-a-week subscriptions after they separated seven months before the win.

Mr Abrahams, a bankrupt airline pilot, was a member of a 15-member syndicate that won a jackpot of more than pounds 3.6m in May 1997. However, he had often left it to his ex-wife to pay his lottery contribution. And when she asked him to reimburse her for 10 weeks of contributions, he told her she could "stick it". A few months later the syndicate struck lucky.

Yesterday his less-than- gentlemanly language cost Mr Abrahams dear when a High Court judge ordered him to give his share of the winnings to his former wife - doubling her win to pounds 500,000.

Until now the money has been held in a joint account in the names of solicitors for the couple's trustee in bankruptcy.

The court heard that Mr Abrahams, 48, and his wife had joined the syndicate started by the landlord of the Tudor Tavern in East Preston, West Sussex, where Ms Gunderson worked. When the couple separated Ms Gunderson continued to pay her former husband's contribution, but he refused to reimburse her.

Ms Gunderson was delighted with yesterday's ruling, saying: "During this period he did not provide me with any support or seek to make payment of the lottery contributions which I continued to pay, this fact being recognised in today's decision." But she added: "It is unfortunate that it has been necessary for me to pursue this matter through the courts." Her lawyers said the case illustrated the need for lottery syndicates to have proper written rules.

Ms Gunderson met her husband while he was trying to set up an airline in Dubai. She left him in October 1996 and started a relationship with David Sayers, his insurance broker.

The judge refused permission to take the case to the Court of Appeal and awarded legal costs estimated at pounds 50,000 against the bankruptcy trustee.

Lawyers for Ms Gunderson said after the hearing that the case illustrated that it was important for lottery syndicates to have proper written rules to avoid the good fortune of a win resulting in litigation.

The case of Ms Gunderson was just the latest in a string of disputes over jackpot money. A Chinese businessman was forced to take former gambling friend Emile Choucair to the High Court to claim ownership of a jackpot- winning ticket. Oi Wah Hui, who had already won pounds 1.5mon the Lottery, was judged the true owner of the ticket worth pounds 1.6 million.

In another instance, a syndicate organiser who stole workmates' stake money and cost them a pounds 49,000 payout was jailed for six months in 1997. John Hardy spent the pounds 62-a-week he collected from 31 friends on cigarettes and gambling. When the numbers came up he went on the run.

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