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Friday, November 12, 1999 Published at 17:46 GMT


Winning loses its gloss

Cheque this out: Gary bought a string of Mercedes after the win

The National Lottery's promise that "It could be you" could be read as a threat. Winning could be thought of as a curse.

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The pressure of suddenly having to cope with tens of millions of pounds has put immense strain on some winners more used to waiting for their pay cheque.

And the story of Lee Ryan, who won £6.5m and was then jailed for handling stolen cars, is evidence that winning doesn't solve every problem.

Loser in love

When Gary Ashmore won £1.6m, he strode into the limelight with the confidence of his idol Elvis Presley.

He soaked up the glamour and the glitz, bought a small fleet of Mercedes and threw all his energy into becoming a pop star.

But now he is singing the blues.

He still lives with his mother and step-father in Reading, Berkshire, and longs for a steady relationship. He spends his lonely days in the gym and practising his new-found hobby as a medium.

[ image: Newspapers lapped up Gary's frolics in the Canary Isles]
Newspapers lapped up Gary's frolics in the Canary Isles
"I'm bored now," he said. "I miss work and mixing with people."

Gary was earning £20,000 a year as a service adviser for a Mercedes franchise in Slough when his numbers came up in 1997.

He could buy all the Mercedes he wanted - and he made a valiant effort at it.

First came a C36 saloon worth £54,000, then he swapped it for a £40,000 SLK convertible.

But that hurt his back so he changed it for a Mercedes S320, worth £54,000.

Then he realised he had to have another Mercedes, an SL320 worth £66,000.

He paid off the £80,000 mortgage on his parents' house, bought cars for his family and spent £17,000 flying three friends to Graceland, where Elvis is buried.

"After a while I got bored, so a friend and I decided to spend the winter in Gran Canaria.

"He gave up his job and we rented a bungalow for £7,000 a month, but it just turned into a drinking binge.

"We'd have two bottles of cheap wine before we went out to give us confidence with the girls and then it would be more wine, lager and eight or nine vodkas.

"We were addicted to vodka and Red Bull. But as someone who's only ever been able to handle four pints, my body took a hammering."

Concerned for his health, he returned to Britain, and a rehabilitation clinic in a battle to beat the booze.

Now nights out are the exception rather than the rule.

He has met plenty of girls, but none appear to want to form a lasting relationship with him - he even joined a dating agency.

[ image:  ]
He said: "Women are not the same. They don't like to be controlled any more.

"It's the Spice Girls and all that girl power thing."

Central TV even paid a model £360 to go out with him for a series about losers in love.

Although he has treated his friends to lavish nights out in the West End of London - limos to Stringfellows and Browns - little of the high life has rubbed off on him and he remains down to earth.

He still holidays in Tenerife, his favourite meal out is McDonald's and he shops in Top Man because he feels comfortable there.

Before his Lottery win, every Saturday night Elvis fan Gary would visit a local karaoke bar to belt out Suspicious Minds or Love Letters.

He has plugged away unsuccessfully at fulfilling his dream of being a star and talks about vague ideas of appearing in a "US soap".

"I'd like to be an icon - someone more famous than even Elvis," he says seriously.

But when asked why he thinks being a millionaire should give him a right to become a star, Gary has no anwer.

Now he is down to £1m and is living off the interest - around £5,000 a month.

"I am happy to a certain extent," he said. "But what I really want is a decent woman. That's the only thing missing - getting married and having children."

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