Saturday, 10 March 2012

How Winning The Lottery Ruined My Life

Mark Gardiner, a glazier from Hastings Kent, is a lottery winner who wishes he had never bought a ticket, or at least not let news of his win get out.

In 1995 Mark Gardiner from Hastings won a half share of £22.6m million in the National Lottery. His story isn’t untypical and would make anyone think twice about going public.

As soon as news leaked of his win, Mark’s life became a living hell. In 2009, 4 years after his win Mark told newspapers, “I suffered a lot of rejection over the years. I wouldn’t presume to claim that this is what happens to every lottery winner, but I think that, whatever your problems are, money magnifies them.

“I was adopted and this made me a troubled young man, particularly in my relationships with women."

“My adoptive mother used to ram home to me the importance of caring for family, but she betrayed me."

“I went through a series of short-lived marriages, and when I separated from my third wife, my mum told me I was no son of hers. Two weeks later, I won the lottery and I think she realised she’d shot herself in the foot."

“To make something out of her mistake, Mum sold her story to a newspaper, saying I was a reckless drunk who would drink my winnings away. In doing that she contradicted everything she had raised me to believe."

“This woman who had walked me to school and stayed up nights with me when I was ill, was talking rubbish about me for a few hundred quid. It showed me how money can destroy relationships."

“On the day of my win I wasn’t even watching the lottery draw. For the previous few months I had been clubbing together with my friend and business partner, Paul Maddison, to buy £50 of tickets each week, always using the same numbers."

“On Sunday morning, we got together for a game of bowls and we heard our numbers on the car radio on the way there."
“We were delighted, but at that point I had no idea how much money we had won."

“I sent Paul to get our ticket verified and, like a fool, he went to the newsagent where we originally bought it."

“Standing behind him in the queue was someone who knew both of us, and when he heard the shop owner congratulating Paul, he nipped outside to phone the press."

“The National Lottery UK operator Camelot became aware through their press office that a fleet of journalists were driving down to Hastings and they rang us to let us know."

“They sent an advisory team to meet us in a hotel 25 miles away, so, while the reporters were driving in, we were driving out – Paul with his wife, Ruth, and me with my new girlfriend, Brenda."

“It was at the hotel that Camelot told us we had the only winning ticket in the £22.6 million jackpot. We went to the bar and had a few drinks to celebrate, but we were still in shock and, for a long time, all Paul and I could do was just stare at each other – we didn’t know what to say."

“The next morning, the newspapers carried all sorts of stories about me. I was being called a ‘lottery rat’ and ‘wife beater’."

“I just thought, ‘Who are they writing about?’ I couldn’t understand it – they were treating me as if I was a criminal."

“The Camelot representative said, ‘Whether you like it or not, you are public property. Your life will never be your own again."

“Camelot moved us to a different hotel each day just in case our location was leaked to the press. We felt like bank robbers."

“Then, on the Wednesday, because they only had one team of advisers and they had to prepare to help the following weekend’s winners, they told us they had to leave."

“By that stage, Paul wanted to get as far away as possible, so he packed his bags and decided to go to Scotland."

“I told him I would buy him out of his share of Croft Glass, our glazing business, and then Brenda and I flew to Tenerife for a week to let the press interest calm down a bit."

“While we were away my secretary phoned to say she had received sack loads of begging letters and marriage proposals."

“Some of the letters were from women who had enclosed photos and £1 coins for me to call back. She chucked them away and kept the money to buy tea and milk for the office."

“When we came back home, the press were still parked out on our doorstep, and they remained there for months."

“Some days I would wake up to find just two or three reporters outside, but, on other days, it could be more than ten."

“Within a month I received my first threat of legal action, from a former girlfriend who claimed I was the father of her child and wanted money for the child’s upkeep."

“I had to endure many court cases over the next few years, all from people who felt entitled to a slice of the money I had won."

“One evening, I went to my local pub and a man I’d never seen before came over and asked me if I was Mark Gardiner. I thought he was going to wish me well, but instead he chucked his pint of beer all over me. I didn’t know what to think – it was bizarre."

“I bought two local football clubs, but they were a complete waste of money."

“The clubs were never going to be profitable and, even though I had poured money into them, nobody was willing to help, so I put them both into administration."

“I also bought houses for my four closest friends, all in the same cul-de-sac, so that we could be close and they could help shield me from unwanted attention. One by one, they took advantage of me – the manager of my glazing company, for example, started skiving off work."

“I could see him sitting in his lounge watching TV. In the end, everything fell apart and I moved away. So did they, but they took the profit from the sale of their houses with them."

“Eventually, I split up with Brenda, who was by then my fourth wife, in 2004. The pressure got to her and she started saying she didn’t know why I wasn’t running off with younger women. By the end we were bickering about the smallest things."

“If I could turn the clock back, I would follow Paul’s example and move to a different area. Even if he hadn’t been careless verifying our ticket, people would still have found out – you can’t hide good fortune when suddenly you live in a larger house and are driving a nicer car."

“The only good thing to happen was getting back with my first wife, Bridget. Now I’m older, a lot wiser and Bridget and I have a son. For the first time in a long time I would say I am happy."

You can’t help but feel sorry for Mark.

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