Self-employed builder Andrew Clark, of Boston, Lincolnshire, had no idea he was the owner of Britain’s biggest ever unclaimed lottery ticket.
With a habit of stockpiling tickets in his van, he worked through many cold and wet winter days, unaware he had become a multi-millionaire.
It was only when his partner’s niece, Louise, reminded him to check his tickets, tucked in the visor of his Peugeot Expert, that he discovered his win.
Stunned, he called partner of four years Trisha Fairhurst, a catering assistant at a local hospital, and told her: "Start looking for a mansion."
“It was about 8pm and we were watching telly when Louise reminded me again about the tickets," Andrew, 51, recalled this morning.
"I finally gave in, got the bundle out of the van and started to work my way through them, methodically from the oldest to the most recent, starting with Lotto, before moving on to my EuroMillions tickets.
"You might say I was slightly winding up Louise but I certainly didn’t expect the wind up to end with me saying ‘I’ve done it, I’ve won £76M’ – I won’t say what she said in response!"
She was among those who kept urging him to check his tickets after news of the massive jackpot and mystery ticket-holder emerged.
“Trisha kept telling me to check the tickets, and her niece Louise, who I was building an extension for, was also in on it once she’d heard about the unclaimed prize in the news," Andrew said.
"It was something of a standing joke that I had all these tickets while there was a local prize outstanding, so for weeks they were on at me to check.”
When he discovered his enormous win, the builder was 70 miles from home.
He called Trisha to break the news – but she initially didn’t believe him.
“I’d just got back from work and was settling in for a quiet evening when Andrew called and said ‘You know that £76m, well I’ve just won it’," Trisha said.
"Obviously I didn’t believe a word of it, even when my niece came on the phone to say it was true I still couldn’t take it in.
"It started to seem real when he called back and said, ‘Honestly, it’s real, so start looking for a mansion’ – bang went my quiet evening, I didn’t sleep a wink."
Since finding out about the win, Andrew and Trisha have already bought a new home and two cars – a Mercedes C63 AMG and a Nissan Qashqai.
And they plan to use their newfound fortune to help out loved ones.
Trisha said: “It’s been great choosing a new home and cars but without question, the best bit about the win is how we can help all our family.
"We can quite simply change their lives, whether that’s paying off mortgages or supporting them in their future endeavours, it’s been amazing to put a smile on everyone’s face, and the fact it’s at Christmas makes it that little bit more magical."
Now, Andrew has awarded himself early retirement.
And he is finally coming to terms with the fact that he needn’t have worked those few cold weeks after his win.
“It almost feels like some magical Christmas story, the man who nearly lost £76m!" he laughed.
"For all our family, I’m very pleased that Trisha and Louise nagged me to check those tickets."
“This Christmas is going to be a quiet affair, but next year will be a different story. Trisha and I have this vision of hiring a big lodge or hotel so that the whole family can get together and swap stories about how they’ve spent their share over the past 12 months.
"This win isn’t just about Christmas magic, it’s about creating a lifetime of magical moments for all those around us."
Andrew had matched five numbers in the EuroMillions draw (5, 15, 17, 37, and 44), as well as the Lucky Stars (7 and 11). Had the life-changing sum gone unclaimed for six months, it would have gone to charity.
Speaking at the time the huge jackpot was claimed, Andy Carter, Senior Winners’ Advisor at The National Lottery, said: "What a win for one lucky UK ticket-holder.
"This is the 12th biggest winner ever in the UK and we very much look forward to toasting their win. Just imagine the Christmas this lucky ticket-holder is now able to look forward to."
Andrew is now wealthier than both ex-One Direction singer Harry Styles (worth £50million) and James Bond star Daniel Craig (£74million).
And he is nearly as rich as singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran (£80million).
He purchased the winning slip in the same area where a retired couple previously scooped a £53m jackpot.
Richard and Angela Maxwell, from Conningsby, Lincolnshire, won the amazing sum in April 2015.
And in May, a National Lottery winner took three weeks to come forward after scooping just under £10m in Grantham.
They have since chosen to remain anonymous.
Mr Carter added: "By buying a ticket for EuroMillions or any other National Lottery game, every player is helping to raise money for Good Causes.
"Around £30million is raised every week for projects across the UK, both big and small.”
The biggest UK EuroMillions winner this year was an anonymous ticket-holder who scooped a whopping £121m in April.
Tomorrow, Lotto has a £15m Christmas Superdraw jackpot up for grabs.
If no one matches all six main numbers, the jackpot prize rolls down and is shared across all of the winning cash prize tiers.
A spokesperson said: "It could transform the gifts under the trees of National Lottery players around the nation."
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