'Sorry, I won't be coming into work today. I've just won £13.8m'

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The Independent Online

He's 26, single, from Essex and has just won £13,861,061. Dean Allen, latest winner of the National Lottery, became a tabloid dream yesterday morning.

He's 26, single, from Essex and has just won £13,861,061. Dean Allen, latest winner of the National Lottery, became a tabloid dream yesterday morning.

The press office of the lottery organiser Camelot was also dreaming. Mr Allen had not only selected the winning numbers, he had, much to his press handlers' delight, also ticked the box saying he did not mind publicity - something that very few lottery winners, mindful of the pitfalls which have affected others, have done.

The timing of his win could not have been better for Camelot. Not only did it come in mid-August, traditionally regarded as the silly season when the media is scrambling for stories. It also came in the week before Camelot discovers whether it has won its own jackpot - the right to retain the licence to run the lottery and earn millions for itself.

It is a nailbiting time for the company not least because it is facing the publicity savvy Sir Richard Branson, who is hopeful of landing the lottery prize.

In addition, lottery ticket sales have been in decline, from a peak of £127.8m in 1996 to about £50m a week this year.

Little wonder then that an early press release yesterday announced him proudly as Britain's newest and most eligible bachelor. However the claim was quickly amended when Mr Allen arrived at the press conference with Louise Collier, his girlfriend of three months, on his arm.

The couple, from Tilbury, had both rung the printing firm where they worked to say they would no longer be coming in. It is a fantasy that many indulge in when the alarm goes off on a Monday morning and very few achieve. However Mr Allen was staying quiet about their future together.

Yesterday his biggest problem was whether to buy a blue or a silver Porsche. Or whether he really did fancy a yacht, because he used to enjoy sailing. Or if he should go and see the Pyramids in Egypt or visit the Seychelles first.

"I don't want to be big-headed but obviously money is no object," he said, revelling in the sound of "thir-teen-point-eight-mill-ion" and how it tripped deliciously off the tongue.

As the assembled photographers yelled: "Give 'er a kiss" and one journalist asked how it felt to be such an eligible young man, Mr Allen paused.

Miss Collier, 23, smiled nervously, and he said eventually: "We'll see what happens."

Pressed further, he said wedding bells would be "not just yet" although to Miss Collier's obvious relief he said she would be accompanying him on holiday where they would talk about the future.

However, Mr Allen later revealed that it was thanks to her that he won in the first place. A regular player since the Lottery began in November 1994, he has been spending £10 on playing twice a week. He always has three lines made up of the same numbers and adds two Lucky Dips. But on this Saturday Miss Collier suggested he buy two extra Lucky Dips and the rest, as they say, is a lifetime of luxury.

Mr Allen, who is now the UK's 10th biggest lottery winner, did not even check his tickets until Tuesday evening.

"I found out the first two numbers and I thought I might have a couple and then I had all six and that was it really," he said with a nervous giggle and a surreptitious mop of his brow.

After calling his parents, Barry, also a printer, and Dawn, a personal assistant, who were both out, Mr Allen and Miss Collier went to her parents to check the numbers on Teletext.

"I thought maybe the numbers on the phone were wrong or the ticket was wrong or the date or something. I didn't really believe it until the Lottery people turned up at my Mum's house. I haven't slept much and it has all been a bit of a blur since then," he said before announcing he had gone home and put the winning ticket in the microwave for safekeeping.

He rang a friend at work and told him he would not be coming in to work the next day because he had dropped a cooking pot on his foot. No-one apparently thought anything of this until Miss Collier also failed to turn up for work on Wednesday at which point one of the directors rang Mr Allen to inquire of his whereabouts.

"I told him I would not be coming in any more because I had won the lottery and I told him it was £13.8m and he said 'how much?' and I said '£13.8m, but I've got to go now'," he said.

Since then he has been trying to come to terms with the sheer amount of money he has won. If he invested his winnings in an internet high-interest savings account at a six per cent rate of interest he could expect an annual income of more than £800,000.

But like many winners before him, Mr Allen swore it would not change him.

"It will change my lifestyle but I will not change what I believe in and what I will do and what I will not do - I just won't go to work any more or worry about parking on double yellow lines any more," he said.

Nor does he think he will be bored with not working. "I'll find something to do. I won't just drive around in nice cars and take nice holidays all the time."

Neither of his parents will ever have to work again and Mr Allen plans to give some money to charity and buy himself a new house.

He only left home six weeks ago to move into his first property - a £57,000 two-bedroom house in Tilbury but said he would probably buy somewhere new in a while.

Yesterday his neighbours were delighted for him. Joanne Duck, from whom he bought his house, said: "He's a lovely guy - very thoughtful and genuine."

June Butterworth said: "I'm very pleased for him. He's a lovely lad and they're a nice family."

Mr Allen insisted he was not concerned about the inevitable press attention and denied there were any skeletons in his closet.

Mr Allen said: "£13.8m is what I am now," as Ms Collier clung to his arm. "Give us a kiss," she murmured, but perhaps with the traffic he did not hear and moved away to talk to someone from Camelot.

But then there was a tiny rattle of bones as he revealed he had been engaged until last December, when he was given "the elbow". Despite the Lottery Love Rat stories that will surely follow, Mr Allen said he hoped his ex felt suitably "gutted" and Miss Collier chimed in to say: "He's mine now."