Nothing gives a better flavour of the treatment meted out to Gardiner since his win than the opening paragraphs of the Daily Star's front page last Monday morning: "The winner of Britain's biggest lottery jackpot was last night branded an evil, drunken BASTARD. . . The estranged wife of the man with a half share of the pounds 22.5m demanded: `I want my cut'. . . And his adoptive mother blasted: "He doesn't deserve a penny of it. I hope he drinks himself to death".
According to his third wife, Kim, Gardiner was a silver-tongued, womanising, violent drunk who was refusing to pay a penny towards the maintenance of herself or their two-year-old daughter. According to his adoptive mother, Irene, he was a callous, sponging, violent drunk who hadn't paid a penny towards the maintenance of his two previous wives and children, either.
Later that day, Gardiner appeared at a press conference organised by Camelot, the lottery company. To the casual eye, watching on television, he seemed a genial, unassuming, even mild sort of a fellow, dressed almost identically with his partner, Paul Maddison, in brand new clothes bought for the purpose. "It's very sad," he said, when asked to respond to his mother and ex-wife. "The comments have hurt me, but I'm not going to talk about it. I'm a nice guy."
It may have been a little unwise, though, to say that he would be keeping all the money to himself. It was certainly unwise to say that "unless I was asleep, I've got the one daughter", since the next day several newspapers were to reveal that he had two. And the husband of his current, pregnant, girlfriend called him a "cheating bastard" for stealing his wife. And his one-time best friend said saving his life was "the worst thing I ever did". And his second wife accused him of having 10 lovers during their 18-month marriage, which took place after his mother dragged him out of the pub. Could it get worse? Well, his mother was also discussing his adoption: "I took Mark to the doctor's and he told me to take him back."
Then, on Wednesday morning, enter his biological mother, to disown him, for "wrecking her life" by searching her out 33 years after the extra- marital affair that produced him. "I have a vision of Mark," said his mother's husband, "finishing up with a Ferrari and going into a brick wall - and I hope it is tomorrow". Below this was a report that his flat in Hastings had been burgled.
Since then, there has been the revelation that he had a "torrid affair" with a striptease artiste, followed by her denying it, claiming that he merely begged her for sex. Various former colleagues and associates have queued to condemn him; one has defended him. For his part, Gardiner has gone away "for a short break". Camelot say he could be "making a statement" in a week's time. If he does, it might be to advise that only people with blameless private lives enter politics and the lottery.
Meanwhile, two women have been treated in a psychiatric hospital after they became convinced they had won the lottery. There has been an inquest on a Liverpool man who shot himself, thinking that he had missed out on a pounds 2m win when he would in fact have won only pounds 27. A letter to the Independent reported an American study of 22 major lottery winners which found that they are no happier than non-winners and take significantly less pleasure from everyday events like watching television. And the Asian from Blackburn who won pounds 18m six months ago told a newspaper that he was still entering every week. Good luck.