Winner of 'spot the ball' vanishes

A RETIRED policeman who deserted the woman he lived with after winning a pounds 225,000 'spot the ball' contest may have already beaten a court order, it was feared yesterday.

Twice-divorced Tom Buckingham, 68, was said to have been living in 'a grotty flat' until he and Ivy Richardson, 64, a cleaner, became friends and he moved into her home in Pelton, Co Durham.

But their relationship was shattered after the contest win. Mrs Richardson, who put up the pounds 2 stake for one of the two coupons submitted, said Mr Buckingham had pledged the winnings would be shared between them.

A High Court judge made an order freezing pounds 112,500 in bank accounts belonging to Mr Buckingham, until a full hearing next month, after an application from Mrs Richardson, a widow.

But Mrs Richardson's son, Geoff Smith, said Mr Buckingham, 68, could have withdrawn all the cash from a National Westminster branch at Newton Aycliffe, Co Durham, after papers about the court move were served last Thursday. 'I gather there was some sort of hassle at the bank on Friday,' said Mr Smith, 42. 'It looks as if he may have withdrawn the cash before disappearing.'

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