Millions of pounds to ruin your life? It could be YOU

It's been the undoing of some, but for most Lottery winners, what most of us suspected is true: a big win really can make you happier
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There is a species of moralising that revels in stories such as that of Keith Gough, the former baker who died last week cursing his 2005 £9m Lottery win and the damage it did to his life. There you are, they say, that's what happens when the sort of person who buys Lottery tickets collects a large sum of money. They blow it, as he did, on fancy cars, racehorses and booze; and it kills them – in Mr Gough's case, at the age of 58, after a break-up of his marriage, much drink and a final, fatal heart attack. "What's the point of having money," he told a newspaper last year, "when it sends you to bed crying?"

And the moralisers don't have to look far for other telling tales. Take Michael Carroll, a binman who won £9.7m in 2002. By this year – four homes, a villa in Spain, enough gold jewellery to fill a pharaoh's tomb, several court appearances and a drug habit that was allegedly costing him £2,000 a day later – it was all gone.

Former security guard John Roberts ended up living in a caravan with £20,000 debts after spending much of his 1998 win of £3.5m, and then there's Stuart Donnelly, who won £2m when 17, in 1997. He found the pressures very hard to deal with ("I even had people camping outside my house..."), became something of a prisoner inside his home and was dead at just 29. In 1995, Mike Antonucci won £2.8m, and most of it was spent by 2009 – on a string of failed business ventures, a house in a former convent, a recording studio in which he aimed to cut a Christmas number one and on a marriage to a glamour model 27 years his junior which lasted just 12 weeks.

Callie Rogers from Workington in Cumbria was only 16 when she won £1.9m in 2003. She bought a £33,000 Range Rover, paid a boyfriend £3,000 to drive her around (both he and the car soon disappeared), blew more than half a million on homes for her and the family, £200,000 on holidays and £450,000 on clothes, a good time and breast implants. But the young woman, who had been in care, felt that people – especially a series of troublesome suitors – wanted her only for her money. By last year, she had survived a suicide attempt and told a newspaper: "I wish I had never won." She did, however, set up a six-figure trust fund for her two children.

And then there's the Lottery winners in the dock. Not only Michael Carroll, but also Brian Baldwin of Carmarthenshire (£220,000 win in 2005, admitted fraudulently claiming benefit two years later); Leah Sumray, a former chip shop worker from Cornwall (£1m win in 2007, contempt of court in 2008); Blackburn man Melvyn Howlett (£1.2m in 2001, three months jail for tobacco smuggling in 2005); Nicola Triplett (£166,000 in 2000, but jailed for killing her former lover with a pair of scissors in 2008); and David Dyas (£4m in 1998; 15 years in 2008 for raping two schoolgirls). Plus, of course, multi-convicted sex offender Iorworth Hoare, who affronted everyone's sense of natural justice when he won £7m in 2004. It's all proof that Lottery millions might buy you a Lamborghini, a Miami condo, the world's best breast implants and an account at Harrods, but they can't buy you a character transplant.

These cases we know because they made it to the courts or became one of the car-crash life stories served up to rubber-necking readers in magazines and tabloids. But they are very much the exceptions. Since the National Lottery started in 1994, it has created more than 2,400 millionaires or multi-millionaires. Most may have had some uncomfortable moments, and anxieties about the effect of their win on friends and family, but they have not ripped through their fortune in a few hedonistic years. Sadly for the moralists, they – and their families and some good causes – seem to have benefitted. Professor Andrew Oswald of Warwick University, who has studied Lottery winners, told the BBC recently: "Lots of people would like to think there are a lot of miserable millionaires out there, but even quite small windfalls show up in our statistics on psychological well being. And large sums are better than small sums."

Some winners show extraordinary generosity. Last year we featured in our IoS Happy List a couple from Sheffield called Barbara and Ray Wragg, who gave away more than £5.5m of their £7.6m win in nine years, to such causes as reimbursing conned pensioners to equipping children's hospitals.

Finally, we didn't need the Lottery to show us that sudden wealth can corrode relationships and turn heads giddy. The history of inheritance and the argy-bargy it causes in thousands of families each year tells us that.