The woman who decided she wanted to be just a half-millionaire

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A 44-year-old mother won half a million pounds on a television quiz show yesterday, and quit her new job as a postwoman before she even started. Kate Heusser became only the second person to collect £500,000, and the biggest female prize winner on ITV's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

A 44-year-old mother won half a million pounds on a television quiz show yesterday, and quit her new job as a postwoman before she even started. Kate Heusser became only the second person to collect £500,000, and the biggest female prize winner on ITV's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

She had taken a postwoman's job to help her family income and was due to start on Monday but after her winnings reached £500,000, she contacted the Post Office to resign immediately.

Mrs Heusser, who lives near Brighton in East Sussex, trained as a solicitor but gave up her career to concentrate on her family. She and her husband Peter have two children, aged 14 and 11.

She collected £500,000 by correctly answering 15 questions put to her by the programme's host Chris Tarrant. To get her started, she had to put the singer Madonna's names in the right order, which was Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone. Mrs Heusser went on to use up all the options available on the programme to help her with the answers.

For £64,000 she was asked to identify what a 'cassowary' was. After phoning a friend, Ian Lawes from Brighton, she correctly said it was a bird.

She then sailed through the questions until she reached £500,000 and was asked which of four cities used to be known as New Sarum.

Faced with a choice of Salisbury, Stoke-on-Trent, Shrewsbury and Sheffield, Mrs Heusser chose the 50:50 option and her choices were reduced to two; Salisbury or Shrewsbury. Unable to decide herself, she asked the audience, 70 per cent of whom chose Salisbury. Mrs Heusser followed their advice and was half a million pounds richer.

Confronted with a double or quits dilemma for a million pounds, she chose to play safe when given a question about a English kings nicknames.

Speaking later Mrs Heusser said: "I'm still in shock. I don't think it will change what we as a family will do with our lives but, my God, it will make it easier."

She said she planned to take her husband to a Grand Prix, buy a new home, a catamaran for one of her sons.

The first £500,000 winner was Peter Lee, a retired Royal Navy officer from Cardigan in Wales in January of this year. The previous highest win for a woman was £250,000 won by Margaret Whittaker, a nurse from Wokingham.

Meanwhile the BBC's rival programme, The Weakest Link, looks set to make the corporation more than £30m in world-wide sales. The show, which encourages contestants to gang up and humiliate each other is about to be sold in 10 countries, its founder David Young said yesterday.

The hit show features Anne Robinson in dominatrix mode, ticking off contestants for poor performance and forcing them to take the "walk of shame" when their team members vote them out for being "the weakest link" if they fail to answer enough questions correctly.

Mr Young said overseas sales of the show owed a huge debt to Who Wants To Be A millionaire because it had been able to follow it into markets where British quiz shows were seen as "hot property".

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