Since its launch in 1994, it has awarded over £80 billion in prize money to players and created more than 6,100 millionaires or multi-millionaires who, between them, have shared an incredible £15.9 billion.
It was a year, of course, that was very different to any we’ve ever experienced before – a year that has posed numerous new challenges for all of us. In our case, we’ve had to adapt quickly and decisively across all areas of our business operations to enable us to continue running The National Lottery as safely and responsibly as we can, while continuing to meet our licence and integrity obligations.
One such area where we swiftly changed our working practices to successfully deal with the implications of Covid-19 was the payment of major prizes to winners during the series of national and regional lockdowns. At the start of the first lockdown in 2020, and with the agreement of the Gambling Commission, we moved quickly to modify our prize validation processes to ensure that we could continue to pay out all major prizes while adhering to the strict government restrictions that had been put in place.
With a focus on protecting National Lottery players and our employees at all times, our team of Winners’ Advisors have worked tirelessly throughout the year to validate winning tickets as efficiently as possible while complying with social distancing rules, and have used the latest secure technology to complete all of the necessary paperwork. They have also made the most of video conferencing to enable them to continue to offer winners the same high level of emotional and financial support that they would have received were it not for Covid-19.
In a year dominated by the pandemic, it was perhaps fitting that key workers were among the people most likely to win a National Lottery jackpot. Drivers – bus, taxi and delivery – represented the largest group of winners, while people working in the administrative and secretarial sector were the next luckiest, just ahead of care, social and charity workers.
Anthony Canty, a key worker who won £1 million on EuroMillions in May, certainly deserved his win. As well as working throughout lockdown maintaining the water quality for hospitals and care homes in central London, Anthony gave CPR and saved the life of a fellow traveller – a policeman who collapsed after suffering a heart attack – on his early morning bus home after a night shift.
The biggest UK win of the 2020/21 financial year came in October when an anonymous ticket-holder won a massive EuroMillions jackpot of £79.3 million, propelling the winner into 15th place on The National Lottery Rich List of biggest-ever wins.
The year also saw another huge EuroMillions jackpot scooped in the UK – one of five EuroMillions jackpots won here in 2020/21 – when a single ticket-holder, who chose to remain anonymous, scooped £39.7 million on New Year’s Day.
However, shortly after the end of the financial year, an anonymous UK ticket-holder won an enormous £122.5 million jackpot in the EuroMillions draw on Friday 2 April 2021, making it an Easter weekend to remember.
As well as becoming the fifth biggest-ever winner in UK National Lottery history, according to The Sunday Times Rich List 2020, the ticket-holder immediately became the 976th richest person in the country, with a fortune greater than world heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua (£107 million) or Spurs winger Gareth Bale (£114 million).
The biggest UK winner to go public with news of their win in 2020/21 was Ryan Hoyle, a self-employed joiner from Rochdale, who won a huge £58.3 million EuroMillions jackpot in April 2020. Ryan, who normally buys his tickets in-store but had been playing online during the first lockdown, discovered his life-changing win while checking his emails the morning after the draw. After initially thinking he had won £2.30, he saw that his second line had also matched some numbers – and this time the winning amount was eight digits long.
Rhyl grandmother Diane Bate was set to have a Christmas to remember after winning the £3.8 million jackpot in the Lotto draw on 12 December. Despite being a newly-made millionaire, family-orientated Diane planned to have as normal a Christmas as possible with her loved ones before deciding what to do with her new-found fortune. As well as holidays, new handbags and a bigger house in the local area, Diane planned to help out her family: “One of our granddaughters is getting married in the USA in January. We aren’t able to attend due to Covid unfortunately, but the win means we can help out financially and help give her an amazing wedding.”
Laura Hoyle’s Cocker Spaniels, Teddy and Barney, have been travelling in fine style since she won the top prize of £10,000 every month for 30 years on Set For Life. After not realising that she had won the amazing prize until 13 days after the draw, Laura and her partner Kirk Stevens, from Hucknall near Nottingham, celebrated their good fortune with a bottle of Prosecco… and a shiny Porsche Cayenne! The couple are now looking forward to enjoying their hobbies, with keen carpenter Kirk looking to set up a workshop to make bespoke furniture in his spare time.
Lockdown may have prevented Sandra Devine from celebrating her postman husband Martin’s birthday at an Italian restaurant, but her decision to send him to the local shop in November to buy some necessities and a couple of National Lottery Scratchcards instead delivered the best birthday present ever after they won £300,000. At first, mum-of three Sandra, from Johnstone in Renfrewshire, thought they’d won £100, while Martin thought it was £1,000. When they called Camelot and learned they’d won a huge £300,000 on the Cashword Bonus game, they could hardly believe their luck.
Sue Davies and her husband Alan from Penlan in Swansea, who won the £500,000 Thunderball top prize in August, are looking forward to buying their dream bungalow after a challenging few months of shielding. After spending so much time at home, the couple realised that it was no longer suitable for them, with Sue finding the stairs more and more difficult because of her deteriorating health and dreaming of a bungalow throughout lockdown. Thanks to her line of lucky numbers, which mark the birthdays of family members, that dream can now come true.
‘The Lottery Ladies’, a syndicate of 20 friends from Hertfordshire, ended the year in style in December with a £1 million Lotto win. The timing of the good news – on the same day Hertfordshire went into Tier 4 of Covid-19 restrictions – provided some much-needed sunshine at the end of a tough year, with some members having just cancelled their Christmas plans with family members. There were still plenty of smiles though as the syndicate’s members worked out how to spend their share of the winnings – with helping out family members and home improvements topping the list for many.
Syndicate leader Shelley Samuels
In July, Shawn Keeley, a store manager from Dungiven in County Derry/Londonderry, celebrated becoming Northern Ireland’s newest millionaire after scooping £1 million on the £50M Mega Cash Showdown Scratchcard. He bought the game as he was leaving work but didn’t remember to scratch it until after he’d got ready to go to a socially distanced garden party with friends that evening. Shawn already has plans to help his family thanks to his good fortune – including a new driveway and garden shed for his mum. A Range Rover is also on his wish list, while a trip with friends to the USA is definitely in his future plans.
In February, Gareth Bradley had just pressed the final letter to be revealed in an online National Lottery Instant Win Game when his 16-week-old puppy Ruby “made it very clear she needed to spend a penny”. When the supermarket store manager from Milton Keynes came back into the house, he discovered that the last letter he’d pressed was the top prize-winning one – and that he was now £500,000 richer.
While Gareth and his partner Connor Dennis have a few “frivolous plans” – including a Range Rover and a Rolex – they are determined to make the money work hard so that it’s there for their families in the longer term.
Truck driver Marcin Jedrzejewski found out about his life-changing win while delivering essential supplies in June. Marcin, from Rugby, was taking a break at a service station and chatting to his mum in Poland when he found out that he’d won the £350,000 top prize on Lotto HotPicks. Marcin planned to put his win to good use by buying a house in his new home town of Rugby and having an overdue 40th birthday celebration, after being unable to celebrate with his family in Poland because of the pandemic.
True to form, champion ballroom dancer Theresa Picton-Clark – or Terri as she is known to family and friends – celebrated her £1 million Lotto win in January by waltzing around the living room with her husband John. The couple, from Lutterworth in Leicestershire, have already used some of their new-found fortune to buy laptops to make things a little easier for family members and friends having to home-school their children. Future plans include a trip of a lifetime to Antarctica and a possible skiing holiday with the grandchildren, while Terri also intends to buy a new dress and shoes to wear when it is safe to return to the dance floor.
In December, almost two years on from their win, Frances Connolly revealed that she and her husband Patrick have given away around £60 million of their £114.9 million win. Frances’ efforts to ensure others could share in their good fortune began just hours after the couple won the jackpot on 1 January 2019. She drew up a list of 50 friends and family members who they wanted to help out – a gesture that has grown into one of the most extraordinary giveaways ever.
Although Frances describes herself as ’unsentimental’, taking pride of place in the couple’s home is a scrapbook filled with thank you cards from hundreds of people that they have never met – ranging from teenagers to a grateful 85-year-old – whose lives they have changed for the better.
Keen to share their good fortune with others, Frances and Patrick have launched two charitable foundations in the areas closest to their hearts. The first, the Kathleen Graham Trust, is in Northern Ireland – Frances was raised in County Tyrone and Patrick grew up in Belfast. It was formed in memory of Frances’ mother who died the year before their win, and aims to support and enrich the lives of all sections of the communities in Strabane and Belfast.
The second foundation, the PFC Trust, is in Hartlepool, where Frances has lived most of her adult life, and aims to improve the lives and life chances of the people of Hartlepool by celebrating all of the good in the town and helping those who need it. “We formed The PFC Trust to help local people, but we were determined from the start that we wouldn’t be throwing money away,” explains Frances. “We wanted to help people to help themselves and for lives to actually change.”
The pandemic gave the couple further opportunities to help out. Wanting to support people who found themselves isolated and cut off from their loved ones, the couple sponsored The Teesside Philanthropic Society which was purchasing electronic tablets – then bought another 100 for Hartlepool and 100 for Northern Ireland to be given out to care home residents, Macmillan nurses, young carers and women’s refuges.
The festive season also presented another opportunity to help others. The couple bought 1,000 gifts for patients who would be spending Christmas Day in hospital, as well as computers, laptops and internet dongles for young carers living in poverty who would otherwise have faced a bleak Christmas.
One of the most precious gifts they gave in 2020 – and the one of which Frances is most proud – was helping a young refugee boy, after learning that the 13-year-old was struggling to get to school because his family had been re-homed and his mother couldn’t afford his bus fare. Frances immediately offered to cover the cost of transport for the rest of his time at school. She said: “The security of his friends and the familiar school where he is thriving is perhaps the best gift anyone could give this Christmas.”
But the Connollys haven’t been the only National Lottery winners giving something back to their local communities over the course of the year.
Lotto millionaire and farmer Susan Herdman, who won a £1.1 million jackpot in 2010, supported her local community during the pandemic by launching a local potato delivery service at the start of the first lockdown. Like many people, Susan was shocked at how food shops were left with empty shelves because of panic buying but realised that, as a farmer, she could be in a position to help.
With a bumper crop following recent wet weather, she realised that she had so many potatoes that she didn’t need.
After posting an announcement on Facebook asking if others wanted them, she was quickly inundated with messages. For those who couldn’t leave their homes for health reasons, she made up bags and delivered them. But the requests from people desperate for help just kept coming, leading her to load up a trailer and put a big sack in the village for people to respectfully take what they needed.
Trainee nurse Lorraine Knott was having a particularly bad day when a National Lottery winner came to her rescue. Back in April 2020, and just before starting her 12-hour shift in the coronavirus pod at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, Lorraine discovered her car had a flat tyre. Things went from bad to worse when, on her way home after her shift, the car broke down completely.
And that’s where Jamie Heavens stepped in. He won £1 million on a National Lottery Scratchcard in 2016 and now runs his own car breakdown service. Wanting to do his bit to help others where he could, Jamie, himself a key worker due to the essential service that he provides, was offering free breakdown recovery to any NHS staff in his area. “It was great to be able to help Lorraine, and there is never a good time to break down but, after a 12-hour shift at a hospital right now, I can imagine it’s particularly difficult!” Jamie said.
Despite winning £2.7 million on Lotto with her husband Derek back in 1995, Elaine Thompson has been busy stacking shelves on the night shift to help others. Elaine has been working in the food hall of a retailer for eight years and says that working nights hasn’t stopped her enjoying her job, as she loves meeting people and working with others, and has made some great friends.
With a shift that starts at 2.00am, even the antisocial hours don’t get her down. Elaine said: “My two children never slept so I’ve got used to having very little sleep. If I’m awake, I may as well go out and work.” She did, however, admit that lockdown had been strange: “I never thought that I would see queues outside of a shop.”
National Lottery winner, Deana Sampson, came up with an innovative way of ensuring she got her daily exercise and maintained a true sense of purpose during lockdown – training disability assistance dogs with the charity, Support Dogs. Deana, who scooped a £5.4 million Lotto jackpot in 1996, has always loved dogs and the charity is very close to her heart, after losing her severely disabled brother, Glyn, when he was just 40 years old, following an epileptic fit.
Support Dogs really resonated with her as it supports and helps people with a variety of conditions, including epilepsy, by giving them a totally new lease of life and enabling them to do things they wouldn’t previously have been able to do.
Just weeks before the country went into the first lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19, Deana took on her first assistance dog to train – five-month-old Regis, a golden Labrador. “I had a whole host of training lined up for my new puppy – going out in public to busy places, restaurants and parks – but, after lockdown was enforced, I quickly had to adapt and focus all of the training with Regis to my kitchen and back garden!”
When Regis completes his training with Deana later in 2021, he will progress to full-time day school where his skills will be assessed. At that point, it will be decided who he will best be able to support, whether this is someone with epilepsy, a child with autism or somebody with other disabilities.
In May 2020, a group of National Lottery winners put their carpentry skills to good use during lockdown by making garden boxes, filling them with plants, herbs, flowers and shrubs, and distributing them to key workers and schools.
The initiative began when members of a winning National Lottery syndicate from West Suffolk College, who won £1 million on EuroMillions in 2016, decided to brighten the day for some of Ipswich’s key workers and children. Using any materials available, Martin Cribb and Robert Ely set to work building garden boxes and filling them with a selection of plants.
One lucky recipient was the Jack n Jill Pre-school in Ipswich, which was providing a safe and supportive environment for the young children of local key workers. Nursery manager Michelle said: “It’s such a lovely project for our children to be involved in and we are delighted to have received these planters. Not only will it keep little minds and hands busy, but the finished planters will bring some brightness and cheer for our key workers as they collect and drop off their children.”
The garden box movement soon expanded, with National Lottery winners from across the country joining in and creating boxes for their local community. Self-employed carpenter Daniel Peart and his wife Charlotte from Peterborough, who won £1 million on EuroMillions in 2018, were happy to get involved, building planters for the children of key workers at Alderman Jacobs Primary School in Whittlesey and local police officers.
Meanwhile, Rotherham winners, Trish Emson and Graham Norton, were also busy doing the same. Trish, who won a £1.7 million Lotto jackpot in 2003, and Graham handed their first planter boxes to James Montgomery Academy Trust hub at Wath Central Primary School.
Charities, including a baby hospice in Middlesbrough and a nature reserve in Suffolk, received a sprinkling of Christmas magic thanks to a group of National Lottery winners who used November’s lockdown to knit more than 1,000 festive fairies and angels.
The team of 52 National Lottery winners usually meet up at Christmas to help support a range of charities. This year, the group decided to form a knitting production line that saw them working from their homes, and sharing tips and ideas via Facebook and Zoom.
Aldershot mum-of-four Debbie Goolding, above, who won £1 million on The National Lottery’s £50M Mega Cash Showdown Scratchcard in July 2020, hoped the knitted angels and fairies would bring “a little moment of magic” to those who received them. She said: “It’s our way of making good use of the time during lockdown so we can now hopefully bring a little seasonal joy.”
In December, Dennis Banfield, the UK’s oldest Lotto jackpot winner, put his woodworking skills to good use during lockdown to make a Christmas crib for his local church. Dennis, who had recently celebrated his 90th birthday, is a passionate craftsman who has made 50 nativity cribs, including one for his local church in Winterbourne, near Bristol.
When he heard that his original crib was too small to house a new set of nativity figures donated by a parishioner, Dennis – who, along with his wife Shirley and two daughters, won £18 million on Lotto in 2018 – sprang into action. He set about building his biggest crib to date: a structure that is 1.9 metres long, 1 metre high and 1 metre deep. Ladders, a hayloft and stables were constructed from bits of spare wood from his shed, with the retired electrician even installing a lighting system.
Carers and hospice workers at two Age Concern Dementia Day Support Centres in Lancashire and at Cardiff’s City Hospice, which cares for terminally ill patients in their own homes, received some early Christmas cheer when they took delivery of luxury gift hampers packed by National Lottery winners.
Working in their homes due to lockdown restrictions and sharing gift ideas via a WhatsApp group, the winners – from North West England and Wales – were determined to deliver a heartfelt thanks to those who had worked tirelessly during the pandemic.
Natalie Cunliffe from Blackpool, who won £1 million on a National Lottery Scratchcard in 2016, was one of the team of winners from North West England who packed the hampers at home. “The efforts these carers go to so selflessly, and the sacrifices they make every day, to care and love, is incredible,” she said. “I was absolutely thrilled to be involved in such a heart-warming project to say thank you and show our appreciation for all they do.”
The team of hamper packers in Wales included Julie Amphlett, a member of ’The Catering Girls’ syndicate that scooped a £25.4 million EuroMillions jackpot in 2017.