Mark Gardiner, 33, seemed to be a nice enough bloke. But when he made his public debut yesterday he was already as famous for alleged violence, drunkenness and adultery as his record pounds 22.5m win on the National Lottery.
Small wonder that Mr Gardiner described his sudden fame as "scary". Less than 48 hours before, any of his personal shortcomings had been a private matter.
But by yesterday, the Sun newspaper had quashed the notion of anonymity for lottery multi-millionaires by revealing the winner's name and the opinions of his nearest and dearest on its front page.
According to the report, his estranged third wife, Kim Cresswell, 33, the mother of his two-year-old daughter, branded Mr Gardiner as a "lying, two-faced bastard".Mrs Cresswell alleged that he was a "violent boozer" who did not pay for his child. Their decree absolute is not yet through and Mrs Cresswell is determined to have half of Mr Gardiner's fortune.
Her assessment was positively generous compared to that of Mr Gardiner's adoptive mother, Irene Cresswell, 68.
"I hope he drinks himself to death with his money," said Mrs Cresswell, who adopted Mr Gardiner as a toddler and said he had been a "curse" on her family.
"If he has won he does not deserve a penny of it. If God was in heaven he wouldn't have given the money to Mark."
Yesterday Mr Gardiner, who apparently changed his name by deed poll, was tight-lipped about the allegations but admitted they "upset" him.
At an official Camelot press conference to announce the win he will share with his business partner Paul Maddison, he said there were two sides to every story. "If you went to Hastings and spoke to my real friends you would get a completely different story," said Mr Gardiner, who was accompanied by the current woman in his life, Brenda McGill, 39, with whom he has lived for eight months.
But Mr Gardiner seemed pessimistic about a media-led rehabilitation. He said one of his true friends had rung a tabloid newspaper which was asking for information about him to say what a great guy he was. Mr Gardiner said the paper was not interested in his friend's story.
Considering his recent character demolition, Mr Gardiner was perky; full of quips. No doubt pounds 11m helped. He revealed that his bank manager had already been on the phone offering the full range of financial services.
Mr Gardiner was delighted to inform him that he and Mr Maddison, who run a double-glazing company in Hastings, East Sussex, would not be renewing their overdraft. "I bet I get a cup of coffee next time I am in," he said.
The only time Mr Gardiner seemed lost for words was when he was asked if Ms McGill was destined to become wife number four. "I don't think she would have me," he said eventually. "Oh I think she might," came a voice from the back. Ms McGill, who works in an old people's home, kept her counsel. She would only say: "He is a lovely guy."
Alongside Mr Gardiner, Mr Maddison, 45, and his teacher wife Ruth, 40, seemed positively boring.
They have been married for seven years. It is Mr Maddision's second marriage and he has two daughters - 17 and 11 - from his first. If there are any skeletons - or vengeful relatives - in Mr Maddison's cupboard, his colourful partner has headed off the hacks.
Mrs Maddison, who teaches in a state primary school, said that she always told her husband and his partner - who wagered pounds 50 last weekend - that they were wasting their money on the lottery because the chances of winning were too remote.
"But I am eating my hat now," she said happily. Mrs Maddison's most pressing purchases were a computer and singing lessons.
Mrs Maddison refused to comment on whether the lottery jackpot was too high. But Mr Gardiner joked it was a case of not winning enough, never mind too much.
Both couples said charity donations and gifts to relatives and friends would be decided after discussions with tax experts.
Mr Gardiner and Mr Maddison agreed that the enormity of events had not yet sunk in but insisted they would be back at work this week. Mr Maddision said they might stretch to a new van and revealed his only extravagance so far was the pounds 140 Next suit he was wearing. He said that he and his wife might get a larger house. But this would be "nothing grand, just bigger".
Mrs Maddison was "absolutely" certain she would continue teaching.
The men said they had gone public because it was pointless trying to remain anonymous. They had tried that on Sunday, they said, and it did not work at all.
But Mr Gardiner's win has provided more messy publicity for Camelot, already struggling to counter increasing public concern over "obscene" jackpots and its own profits.
"You do pick them, don't you?" said a journalist to David Rigg, spokesman for Camelot, yesterday before the press conference began.
Mr Rigg laughed long, and perhaps, just a little too heartily.Reuse content