Lottery tickets give game away

Data ways: New means of keeping tabs on criminals and absconders
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The Independent Online
Crime does not pay, especially if villains have their alibis ruined by keeping their lottery tickets in their trousers.

In one of the lesser-known spin-offs of Britain's lottery mania, the coded information a lottery ticket holds can help police pinpoint where and when the ticket was bought. The information, where it contradicts a claimed alibi, has been used in criminal courts and successful convictions have followed.

Although the lottery is now an accepted British institution with 30 million computer terminal, as opposed to instant, tickets, sold every week, it would appear Britain's criminal fraternity have been slow to see they could be carrying around instant whistleblowers. Mike Pottinger of the lottery's operator, Camelot, said that his investigators helped police with information from tickets found on suspects.

Mr Pottinger described the assistance given to police following a burglary. "Two suspects were found to have lottery tickets on them. From the tickets we knew when and where they were purchased. The police asked the owners of the house if they had bought tickets recently, and when and where. The police also asked the suspects, who claimed the tickets were theirs. The suspects were 100 miles out in where the tickets the bought.."

Even Camelot's "Instants" game has built-in information that has assisted police in investigations. When a seller takes delivery of Instants cards, they have to be "activated". Mr Pottinger said that inactivated cards had been stolen, and that when the thieves tried to cash in the winners, terminals were able to trace where they were being processed. "We found a pattern being made by the thieves, predicted their next stop, and waited. When they arrived the police arrested them."