Aasma Day talks with Lancashire lottery millionaire Deborah Mather about how winning changed her life for the better, and discovers why Lotto winners will always need specialist advice after scooping big money.
Deborah Mather was down on her luck a few years before her Lottery win, after a stumble down a flight of stairs changed her life dramatically.
Deborah, now 56, who lived in Clayton-le-Woods, near Chorley, at the time of the win, explains: “I was living in rented accommodation at the time and I fell down a flight of stairs and suffered horrendous injuries.
“I broke my foot, damaged my hip, had no kneecap on my left leg, damaged my hand and lost the use of my thumb.
“I ended up having 14 operations to try to fix me over the course of many years, and could not walk properly or do anything with my hand.
“I was a book-keeper and ended up losing my job. I couldn’t work and was registered as disabled.
“The reason I was living in rented accommodation was because I was waiting to move into a house.
“But we ended up losing the house as I wasn’t working.”
Deborah, who now lives in Heath Charnock, near Chorley, and has a 30-year-old son Peter, has been doing the National Lottery ever since it was launched 20 years ago – and never misses putting on a line a week, even since her big win in 2005.
Deborah’s win happened in May 2005, just before her son Peter was due to fly out from Manchester to work as a holiday rep.
Deborah recalls: “I wasn’t happy about Peter leaving, as he was my main carer and I knew I would miss him.
“Peter was supposed to be flying from Manchester on May 21, so we decided to have a party on Friday, May 13.
“I was extremely upset on the day of the party, and I was literally praying for something to happen which would mean he wouldn’t go.
“The day after, on the Saturday, I was at a friend’s house watching the Lottery and my friend’s grandson wrote the numbers down for me on a piece of paper.
“I was checking them through one by one and lo and behold, I had every number!
“My first thought was: ‘Oh my God – Peter doesn’t have to go any more!’
“I remember this feeling from the bottom of my feet all the way up like a big rush, and I started crying.
“When my friend asked me why I was crying, I told her: ‘I think I’ve only gone and won the National Lottery!’”
Laughing, Deborah remembers her son Peter’s initial reaction of disbelief – he thought it was just a ploy by his mum to stop him going to Magaluf.
She says: “He said: ‘Don’t try that one Mum. You’ve already tried every other trick in the book.’ He thought I was pulling his leg.
“It was only when he came downstairs later that he realised I wasn’t lying.”
Divorcee Deborah won £5.1m on the Lottery and says the fortune has changed her life for the better.
She explains: “I am no longer registered as disabled, after having private medical care and physiotherapy.
“I am a lot healthier too after losing weight, and exercising with the help of a personal trainer.
“Peter took up sky-diving and is now in one of the British teams.
“We bought a business selling fireworks, fancy dress and balloons and have a shop in Chorley and Preston.”
Deborah says that, after the initial joy of the win sank in, she had to think about the practicalities of dealing with the money – and that’s where the Lottery’s winner advisors came in.
Deborah says: “I had to sit down and work out how I was going to distribute the money.
“We gave £1.5m away to friends and family – but we had to make sure we did it in the right way.
“I had two dear friends who were alcoholics, and you can’t give people like that money. So I had to think how I could help them in other ways.
“I also had friends who were in the process of going through divorces, so you have to be careful there too.
“You cannot just give people money without thinking about the consequences.
“The other thing I had to do straight away was make a will.
“That is always something you put off, but after winning the Lottery, it becomes a priority.”
Deborah says the other difficulty she faced was making people realise she was still the same person, despite her big win.
She says: “I had a cousin who did not come near me for weeks because she did not know how to approach me.
“The Lottery’s winners advisors are wonderful people, and are like guardian angels.
“They work really hard and take on all your worries, which are mostly about other people and how your win affects them.
“The Lottery winner advisors have helped point us in the right direction for so many things.
“I definitely feel a lot happier since winning the Lottery. It is lovely to be in that situation.
“But you have to keep your feet on the ground, and remember to invest the money as best you can as if you’re not careful, it can slip through your fingers.
“Being a book keeper, I have remained sensible and keep spreadsheets about all the money coming in and going out.
“One of the things that every Lottery player needs to remember is that every time they buy a ticket, not only is it a chance of winning money, they are also helping good causes.
“Things like the Olympic Games would not have happened without all the people who bought Lottery tickets.
“Every time you buy a ticket, you are making a donation to so many good causes.
“And you never know, you might be a winner!”