Pools winner is sued by friends for share of pounds 2m

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A friendship between four workmates who formed a pools syndicate with an understanding to share any winnings was shattered when one of them won almost pounds 2m and refused to give any to his friends, it was claimed yesterday.

Paul Pitt, a forklift truck driver, and his colleagues Martin Foulds, 28, Andrew Sullivan, 30, and Graham Ware, 32, all from Portsmouth, worked together in a local distribution centre and played the pools each week.

Yesterday, Mr Pitt faced his former friends across the benches of Portsmouth County Court, following a claim for damages by the other three. They are suing him for breach of contract arising from an alleged oral agreement and are claiming pounds 25,000 damages each.

The three told the court yesterday that as members of the Four Syndicate, as they were known, they filled in a joint coupon each week but also entered individual slips.

Covering these individual coupons, the plaintiffs allege, was a "verbal gentleman's agreement" sealed by the shaking of hands, although Mr Pitt's counsel, Crawford Lindsay QC, argued there was no such agreement.

According to Mr Foulds, the Four Syndicate had verbally agreed to split any individual coupon win of pounds 1m or more - a sum the syndicate referred to as the Big One. The alleged agreement would ensure the other three got pounds 25,000 each from the winner's takings. No formal contract was drawn up.

Mr Foulds told the court the members of the syndicate did not see any need to draw one up. "We were very close friends and the last thing we imagined was ending up in court in the event of one of us winning the Big One," he said.

So when Mr Pitt was informed that he had won pounds 1.8m from his individual ticket the other three sent him a congratulations card and eagerly awaited their cut.

Mr Sullivan told the court that when he approached Mr Pitt at work to remind him of the alleged agreement and hint at payment, Mr Pitt said he had not won enough to give out money to them. "I was completely gobsmacked," Mr Sullivan said.

The hearing continues today.