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SUNDAY 14 APRIL 2024

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Winning the Lottery has ruined my life says Mark as he goes back to work

WINNERS: Mark Gardiner, right, and his business partner Paul Maddison celebrating their £22.59 million Lotto jackpot in 1995

WINNING millions on the National Lottery is not all it is cracked up to be, according to Lotto millionaire Mark Gardiner. He’s been so bored after winning half of a £22.59 million jackpot in 1995 that he’s gone back to his double-glazing job.


“The money has nearly ruined my life,” he told The Sun. His pals “turned on him” and investments went sour. Now his fourth wife Brenda is filing for divorce, joining his rich wives club.


But before you shed the tears, I must point out that Mark still owns a house in Barbados and has an Aston Martin, a Harley-Davidson and two Mercedes in his garage. As for his pals, well, he’s never been that popular in Hastings, where he lives.


That’s what he told me when we went for a drive around the town in a yellow Ferrari he was buying. He couldn’t decide whether to buy the yellow one or the red model. “Which do you think Tel?” he asked. I liked the red. But in the end, he bought both, as you do. Neither of us were comfortable in either of them … they are not designed for fuller figures.


Later, we walked to the bowling green where, in June 1995, he had been playing a match when his double-glazing partner Paul Maddison rushed on to the lawn waving their lottery ticket and shouting “We’ve won!”


Mark was nicknamed the Lotto Rat after he and his partner Paul scooped the jackpot. They walked into Camelot’s HQ in Watford in their shiny shell suits to claim their prize, went into the gents and came out in £150 Next outfits. Their lives changed overnight, just like their clothes.  


The Daily Express and other titles had a field day. Mark, 33 at the time, was branded a hard-drinking womaniser by friends. Wives and girlfriends came out of the woodwork to seek favour with the new millionaire … even his mother and estranged father, who told us his son was conceived under a bridge, came forward to stick on the honey pot.


     I was approached by a TV production company to produce and appear in an episode of a series on Lottery winners for Channel Five called ‘Everyone’s A Winner,’ which focussed on Mark’s story.


At the time, I was Assistant Editor of the Express and had Press friends who were ‘minding’ the millionaire winners, fleeing publicity. One pal was dear old Alasdair Buchan from the Daily Star. Journos were used because they understood the tricks of other hacks. Alasdair was always running through back gardens with winners, dragging them through bushes and jumping over fences.


As Mark and I were followed around the streets of Hastings by the TV crew filming people and interviews, he said: “Look Tel,” see how locals cross the road when they see me coming, they hate me and my good fortune. Some even spit when they see me!”


His home was to be my first evidence of how Mark was easily bored. It was planned as a luxury hotel, with a swimming pool off the lounge and a marble mosaic on the bottom with a finger pointing up. The Camelot motto on the flooring, read: “It could be you!” It was the slogan that appeared on 3000 store posters across the UK at the time.


But he changed his mind when the hotel was half built and turned it into his home. He hardly ever swam in the pool. He also wanted to be a musician although he couldn’t play a single note on anything … but he bought every musical instrument he could find, filling a complete room with enough kit to supply the London Philharmonic. Then he shut the door and that was that.


One weekend he dragged me into the vast garden of his home to show me his new acquisition on the lawn … a British Army Chieftain tank. We scrambled over it playing soldiers, swinging the gun turret this way and that. Soon he was bored. Next time I visited, it was gone.


Mark bought a luxury yacht; treated friends to a cruise and took me, the TV crew and his wife to be, Brenda, five months pregnant, to Barbados, where he bought a million-dollar home and guest house near Cilla Black on a whim, after seeing a brochure and the salesman told him heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield, or someone like that, would be a neighbour.   


The yacht was soon gone but he and I spent a day deep sea fishing with a hired captain on a 40ft launch in the Caribbean. Great stuff but no fish … all we tucked away was enough cold beer to sink us.


I had a great time with Mark and liked him a lot. He was “one of the lads” as we say. We drank every rum shack dry, well nearly. The trip culminated in Mark inviting me and a TV crew to dinner at the prestigious Sandy Lane restaurant, haunt of the stars. It was a great night for seven of us. Mark left early with Brenda though. And guess what? We got the bill. Don’t ask.


One thing Mark never got fed up with though … doing the lottery. He has done it every game since he won nearly 30 years ago. And they’re the same numbers!

*****

Beaverbook was truly patriotic and the Express reflected it during the war years, as Drone columnists like dear old Alan Frame often remind us. And I do like a good war story especially when it recalls the courage of our boys and girls in the front line.


I stumbled across one when I was in Valletta, working as a consultant for the Times and Sunday Times of Malta. The little island nation was of course hammered by Italian and German bombers in the dark days of 1942. But I have always thought that this tale would make a great Netflix movie if Woke nutters didn’t complain about British patriotism and how we shot at those nice pasta-gobbling Italians.


I had quickly discovered that the coastline and sea around the rocky Mediterranean fortress was a goldmine for shipwrecks and war damage from the Knights Templars and Napoleon to the Second World War. And there has always been a rich history of British involvement.


One morning in the newsroom I learned that an American ocean explorer named Timothy Gambin had just discovered the wreck of the sunken British wartime submarine HMS Olympus off the coast, using deep sea roving cameras.


Its whereabouts had been a mystery for half a century. The news captured my imagination and I talked to Gambin, historians, Naval people in Malta and London and our own Ministry of Defence. It turned out it was the single biggest submarine tragedy of World War Two.


For on the fateful night on May 8, 1942, 89 men lost their lives trying to reach safety in the darkness of a terrifying storm after the Olympus hit a German mine.


She had quietly slipped out of Malta, transporting surviving British crew members of two other torpedoed submarines and was headed back to the UK and safety, after months in the war-torn zone. The lads were desperately looking forward to seeing their loved ones and thought themselves lucky.


But seven miles out and under water, the boat hit a newly-laid mine and was rocked by the explosion. It managed to surface in the darkness, its bowels flooding. As water gushed over the crew, they were ordered on deck to line up and told not to panic but take off their shoes and socks and keep on their heavy clothes. They followed instructions to the letter, without argument. Standing to attention on deck in the swirling seas and biting winds. All of them.


Then, they were ordered to jump for their lives. It was every man for himself in the cold, black sea with heavy currents and 8ft waves. It was pitch black all around.


For several minutes, no one knew which way to swim. Malta was in blackout. But suddenly, searchlights lit up the sky in the distance as the island suffered yet another bombardment by the enemy.  The men struggled through the waves in that direction.


Only nine survived that gruelling seven-mile swim to the island fortress.


Eighty-nine died battling against the waves, including their commander, as they made desperate attempts to call to each other and help those who were drowning. When they did, they drowned together. Two men got just a few hundred yards away from Malta’s own gunners who saw them waving — and shot them by mistake.  


Among those who survived was Chief Petty Officer, Gordon ‘Lucky’ Selby, a legend in the submarine service for surviving more submarine sinkings than anyone in naval history. When men were posted to submarines, they always asked for Selby’s boat.


In the 15 minutes it took the 280ft sub to go down, he returned inside it twice as daylight broke, to retrieve vital life-saving equipment. The last time he looked back, he saw the war machine slowly sink below the waves … with shoes and socks still neatly laid out along the deck, until they floated on the water.


The ill-fated Olympus had been adopted by the townspeople of Peterborough and was featured in the Express under the British Government’s War Week just before that fatal voyage as the people helped finance repairs for their crews. They even knitted socks and gloves for the men who came to street parties. They were heartbroken. The spot where it sank, is now an official War Grave. What a gutsy tale.

*****


HOME SWEET HOME:

I thought I would share this with you. Nice to see people improving their homes but not at the expense of others, eh? A news story from My London, a Reach website publication. The mind boggles. A house in Tower Hamlets, east London, pictured below, has just been given the go ahead to build an extension for an extra living room and dining space. It received 31 letters of objections and a petition from neighbours claiming their loss of privacy, over-development and noise because it could be turned into a house of multiple occupation in an area of drug addicts.

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TERRY MANNERS

21 August 2023

















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