In hiding, the Irish woman with a £77m lottery fortune to spend

Dolores McNamara fled her family home in Co Limerick, Ireland, at the weekend after receiving a torrent of media interest following her extraordinary win.

The 50-year-old, who has six children, had been sitting in her local pub at Garryowen on Friday night when the winning numbers of the EuroMillions lottery appeared on television.

"When the numbers dropped mum fell in to a state of shock," said Dean, her 15-year-old son. "It took a while for her friends to convince her she had won the jackpot, she couldn't believe it."

Mrs McNamara seemed numb for 10 minutes - then she broke into tears.

When the truth finally dawned on the former chemist shop assistant that she had won the biggest prize in European lottery history, she went down to the local police station. She wanted to hand over the ticket for safe-keeping until she could collect her prize after the Irish bank holiday tomorrow. The police were reluctant to take responsibility for it and a local bank manager was roused out of bed to put the precious piece of paper in a bank vault. Having ensured that it was behind lock and key the manager dropped her back off at her local - the Track Bar - for a champagne celebration.

Last night, Mrs McNamara had left her white terraced bungalow and gone into hiding. Neighbours said she was staying in a nearby hotel to escape intense media interest though drinkers at her local claimed she had flown out of the country.

Her childhood friend, Geraldine Donohoe, said she had been "devastated" by the win. "She is a lovely person. She married and she raised a lovely family. She more than deserved what she got," she said. Mrs McNamara and her husband, Adrian, a bricklayer, have six children - Dawn, 28, Kim, 22, Kevan, 20, Gary, 26, Dean, 15, and Lee, 13.

Jackie Greer, a taxi driver who was in the pub when she won, said: "She had been worried about buying school uniforms for her children ... she has nothing to worry about now.

"She just kept repeating, 'I can't believe it!' When it finally hit she just started crying. The atmosphere was just electric. Everybody got on their mobile phones and started to spread the news."

Officials in Ireland said yesterday they could not confirm an Irish winner until the person comes in with the winning ticket.

"Obviously it is all over the papers but there is a formal procedure," Paula McEvoy, a spokeswoman for the lottery, said.

She continued: "The offices will be open on Tuesday but it would be mid to late next week at the earliest, that the person would get the money, because of the magnitude of the amount. The funds would have to come from abroad.

"It is up to the winner, however, they may choose not to come in for two months. They have 90 days from the day of the draw."

Hopefuls in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland, France, Spain, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg participate in Europe's weekly draw each Friday. To win the jackpot, players need to match five main numbers from one to 50 - and two Lucky Star numbers from one to nine. Friday's winning numbers were 3, 19, 26, 49 and 50, and Lucky Stars 4 and 5.

The EuroMillions jackpot had not been won since the middle of May and had rolled over nine times. The UK's largest National Lottery jackpot was £42m shared by three ticket holders in 1996 while the biggest individual win in the world was a 2002 US Powerball prize of £197.4m.

Europe's previous biggest lottery draw prize was £72m (€105m) won on the Italian Superenalotto in May.

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