‘Lotto lag’ who blew £6.5m says he is ‘happiest I’ve ever been’ in decorator job

Camelot appeals for second Lotto winner to come forward

A so-called “lotto lag” who ended up homeless after frittering away his £6.5million winnings, is now working as a painter and decorator – and has insisted he “the happiest he has ever been”

In 1995, Lee Ryan became the first UK Lotto winner to go to prison.

Fast-forward almost 30 years and he is working on a plush house in Chiswick in West London – and now describes himself as a “a spiritual billionaire.”

After winning the jackpot in what was then known as the National Lottery, Mr Ryan splashed out on a plane, a helicopter, a pool, two Ducati superbikes, and several expensive cars.

However, things went downhill and 15 years later, he was homeless, living on the streets, and referring to his win “a curse”.

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Now the 63-year-old is back on his feet, making a living as a decorator, painting posh homes like the one he used to own, and he told the Mirror: “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”

He still plays the lottery and believes he will win again, pledging the cash helping the homeless.

Mr Ryan said: “I believe in the law of attraction, so I think I will win again, but it won’t mean any more to me than it did before. I know it sounds weird, but I don’t need anything.”

“If I had my time again, I’d open a hotel for the homeless. Then you feel you’ve done something worthwhile.”

Mr Ryan was dubbed the “Lotto Lag” after ending up in prison, during which time he was unable to enjoy his windfall for nine months, while he served time for handling stolen cars.

He had prayed that he would become a millionaire while serving his first prison sentence in 1986. And on March 11, 1995, just 17 weeks after the National Lottery began, he and his girlfriend Karen Taylor won £6,527,880 with his winning numbers – 2, 13, 22, 27, 29, 46 – and Lee gave up his life of crime.

The couple, who were living with their three young children in a council house in Leicester, tried to keep the win secret, but told relatives and news got out.

He bought a Bentley, a Ferrari, a Porsche and a BMW with number plates LEE 1, LEE 2, LEE 3 and LEE 4. He bought a £1million mansion with a swimming pool, tennis court, sauna and Jacuzzi as well as the two Ducatis, £125,000 plane and £235,000 helicopter.

Mr Ryan, who now drives a 2015 Vauxhall Vivaro van worth £10,000, said: “Believe it or not a lot of my money went on people that I thought needed it at the time. I used to slip envelopes of cash to homeless people and that was the most pleasure I ever got from having money. Obviously you buy helicopters and stuff like that but that was a passion I’d had as a kid.

“When I had the money, I thought this is what I wanted, what I prayed for and then it happened and it was kind of, ‘Be careful what you wish for’. People always think, ‘Oh, if I win tomorrow that will be the end of my worries’. That’s just not true, this is just the beginning of your worries.

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“You will see who is who in your life, even in your own family it becomes fractured. It’s all just an illusion really. All these possessions trap you. People think you’re doing well because of what you’ve got, but I know people with so much money who are miserable.”

And a venture to build a fish farm in Kyrgyzstan was scuppered when local mafia bosses stole his fish. By 2010, Mr Ryan had filed for his second divorce and returned to London, penniless and homeless. He now helps out at a homeless shelter that once helped him, providing free decorating.

Now living in Twickenham, south west London, he said: “Apart from death, you can’t get much more rock bottom than being homeless, so I tested myself and it’s all good. Sometimes even now I spend my nights in tents just to remind myself that I’m bomb proof, I’ve gone through it all. Now I’m just looking for that middle ground where you still have to strive for what you want, rather than just having it handed to you.”

Following his lottery win, he hired an ex-SAS soldier to guard his family after hearing of a plot to kidnap one of his children. His housekeeper stole £40,000 and was jailed for three years, an arsonist tried to set fire to his £145,000 Ferrari, and a £15,000 caravan in the 40-acre grounds of his mansion was burned out.

Mr Ryan and Karen split in 2003 and sold their mansion. He and new girlfriend Jyldyz Djangaracheva relocated to her home country, Kyrgyzstan, central Asia, where he lost £2m in failed investments. He says he put the money into a scheme to take the lottery to China, but claims crooked officials cheated him.

He said: “I don’t want all that around me again. It’s almost like being in a prison when you’ve got to lock your gates and be on constant lookout… People just fixate on the money aspect of it, but that really was a juxtaposition, going from having quite a bit to nothing. It was a crazy experience but one I’ll never forget.

Having nothing was equally important as the experience of having all the money. There was a time when I prayed for my pound back. But now at this point I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my whole life.”

Although Lee considers the windfall a curse, he believes it saved him from a life jail term. He was plotting an armed robbery at the time of the win and handed his shotgun in as part of a police amnesty. He said: “The only bit that win did was stop me from getting a life sentence because I was getting into harder crime.

“It starts with robberies and stuff but eventually your luck runs out and if anyone crosses you, they get their kneecap blown. But now I’m very grateful to be where I am now and I’m more honest than I’ve ever been. I’ve got keys to houses I could never afford and I can just go and do my bit.”

Lee still tries his luck on the lottery and once had a near miss in a £100m EuroMillions draw, winning £5,413 instead. He said: “People think everyone will be happy for them when they win.

They won’t, everyone will be jealous and out to get you. The chasm between those who have nowadays and those who don’t is massive. People have too much for their own good. I know so many people who are rich and miserable. If I win again nobody will hear about it.”

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