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The shocking truth about how winning the lottery could kill you

Marc Crosby 6th Nov 2019 3 Comments

Reading Time: 7 minutes

We all accept, theoretically, that money can’t buy you happiness, but most of us would like the chance to find out for ourselves… but would you still want to find out if we told you that winning the lottery could kill you!

In fact we’re shown repeatedly in celebrity culture, what with repeated entries into rehab and even tragic suicides, that megabucks can sometimes give you more misery than joy.

If you’re not used to money (and sometimes even if you are) winning or earning millions can be a terrible shock to the system and can bring on family break-ups, violence, illness and even death. Sadly, the majority of people who buy lottery tickets are poor or on a very low income, so winning all that money in one go can often knock them off-balance


Read on to find out how winning the lottery could kill you:



5 worst lottery winner horror stories

Here are some horrible stories that will make you think twice next time you buy yourself a lottery ticket…


1. William Post – $16.2 million

Debt lottery

American William Post won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988 but now lives on Social Security. “I wish it never happened. It was totally a nightmare,” he says.

Too true. A former girlfriend successfully sued him for a share of his winnings then one of his brothers was arrested for hiring a hit man to kill him, hoping to inherit a share of the winnings (talk about brotherly love)! Other siblings pestered him until he agreed to invest in a car business and a restaurant which both lost money and drove more of a wedge between him and his family.

Within a year, he was $1 million in debt and deserted by family and friends. He eventually declared bankruptcy and now lives on $450 a month and food stamps.


2. Abraham Shakespeare- $17 million

Abraham Shakespeare had dropped out of school after seventh grade, was unable to read and spent time in jail after being convicted of several burglaries.

In November 2006, at the age of 40, Shakespeare won the a $30 million lottery draw and chose to accept a $17 million one-off lump sum. Straight away it was problematic, he was sued by his co-worker who claimed that Shakespeare had stolen the ticket out of his wallet. Thankfully (or maybe not so thankfully…) the court did not believe the co-worker and Shakespeare kept the whole amount.

Shakespeare went on to move out of his neighbourhood and into a gated community. He went into business with a woman called Dorice Donegan “Dee-Dee” Moore, who was put in control of the firm’s finances. He soon found his wealth a burden, telling his brother that he’d have been better of broke and “I thought all these people were my friends, but then I realised all they want is just money.”

In November 2009 Shakespeare was reported missing by his family who said they had not seen him since April of that year. His body was eventually discovered in the back garden of his business partner, “Dee-Dee” Moore, buried under a concrete slab. Moore was sentenced to life in prison for murder.


3. Jack Whittaker – $314 million

Looking for a credit card to cover the festive season?


Jack Whittaker won his fortune on Christmas Day and probably assumed it was his lucky day. He pledged to donate 10% of his winnings to Christian charities. He also donated a further $14 million to help provide food to low income families.

However less than a year after he won the money thieves broke into his car and stole $545,000 that Whittaker kept in a suitcase. Yes, I know what you’re asking, why on earth was he carrying around that kind of money? When asked he had simply replied “because I can.” Less than a year later thieves broke into his car again and stole $200,000… it’s fair to say he hadn’t learnt his lesson!

He was saved from losing more money when police discovered that two managers of a strip club had been planning on drugging Whittaker and robbing him. Not exactly a nice life!

On top of this Whittaker has been plagued with further problems that are not directly linked to his winnings. His granddaughter’s boyfriend had died from an overdose at Whittaker’s house and in 2009 his daughter was found dead…no explanation was ever given.


4. Jeffrey Dampier – $20 million

Jeffrey Dampier and his wife won $20 million in 1996.

He invested his money in a popcorn business (to each their own) and also bought a lot of gifts for his family including his sister-in-law, Victoria Jackson, with whome he was also having an affair.

His story does not have a happy ending. In 2006 Victoria Jackson and her boyfriend kidnapped Dampier and eventually shot him in the back of the head, killing him. Jackson was given three life sentences in prison – her motive was deemed to be ‘jealously’.


5. Thomas and Denise Rossi – $1.3 million


Thomas and Denise Rossi were happily married for 25 years. There had been no serious marriage issues, in fact they were so close that they happily shared an electric toothbrush (ugh).

However in December 1996, out of nowhere, Denise Rossi demanded they get divorced…and quickly.

The reasoning behind this soon became clear. Eleven days before Denise Rossi filed for divorce she had won $1.3 million and wanted to keep it a secret. She was soon found out and the judge awarded every single penny of the winnings to her husband.

So this one’s kind of a happy story…unless you’re Denise Rossi – if she had just declared her winnings she would almost have certainly kept half of it, if not the whole lot!


Lottery winners who lost it all

Some lottery winners don’t end up in a bad state because of the evil of others, some just mange to spend everything they win.

  • Evelyn Adams won the lottery…twice (1985 and 1986) and got over $5.4 million. However she gave a big lump of money to her family and friends and gambled the rest away. By 2001 she was living in a trailer.
  • Billie Bob Harrell Jr. won $31 million in the Texas lottery in 1997. He donated a lot to charity and gave loans to friends and family but he was never paid back, and by 1999 he was broke. His son found him dead from suicide, just 20 months after he won the lottery.
  • Michael Carroll won $14 million dollars… and then blew the whole lot on cocaine and call girls! You don’t need us to spell out the lesson from this one.
  • Willie Hurt won $3.9 million in 1981. In two years he was broke after spending all his money on crack and a divorce and ended up being charged with murder.


 What to do if you win a fortune

Young women showing cash in the air


So what do you do if you suddenly inherit, win or earn a big lump of cash?

Well there are a few things you can do to keep you head – and your cash – while people all around are losing theirs:

  • Take some time – at least three months – to address the emotional fall-out connected to coming into money, it’s a big change! It will take a while for you to adjust to your new-found situation and work out properly what you want to do with it. Put the money in a high-interest cash savings account while you’re mulling it over. Check out our savings section for more information.
  • Also take time to think about – and research – investments you might want to make. Many lottery-winners lose all their money, and more, by thinking they are on a lucky streak and can put money into anything for profit. Check out are investing section for some ideas
  • Don’t rush into buying anything until you have talked it through with advisers and done some research. If you haven’t lived in a big posh house before you won’t know just how expensive it is to keep it going. Find out the running costs of a new home/car/art collection before committing your cash to it. In fact, to start off with, keep it simple – upgrade to a slightly nicer house and get used to that before upgrading again.
  • Keep your friends and family with you. This is where you see who really cares for you. Some will demand money but you have to be firm. If you want to give to them then do it but make sure it is not because of pressure. Those who reject you because you have not given are not real friends – even if they are family. If they see that you’re firm and not throwing money away on yourself either, they will come to respect you after a while.
  • Get a plan. Once you have taken time out to cope with things emotionally, look at where you are financially now. 1) Pay off any debts (including your mortgage), 2) Check on your insurance cover (particularly life insurance) and 3) start thinking about what your new goals are and how much money you will need to achieve these.
  • Surround yourself with good, independent advisers. You will need an accountant, a financial adviser who specialises in high net-worth individuals and probably a lawyer to help set up trusts and also protect you from possible law-suits from former friends! Make sure that these are all paid by the hour or by the job. Don’t have any of them on commission or introducing you to their ‘friends’ as that could give them and their ‘friends’ too much temptation with your money.
  • Consider charities. Over and over, studies have shown that contributing to the welfare of others gives us happiness and fulfilment. In the case of charities it is also tax-efficient, in a degree. The ancient custom of ‘tithing’ (giving 10% of your income to the church) is a good benchmark for your giving level. Set aside at least that amount to give to good causes or to set up your own charity.
  • Don’t spend it all on cocaine and prostitutes!


…and remember, trying to win a fortune from the lottery is considered by many to be a fools game. If you invested every pound from every draw in the National Lottery into an investment paying 5% p/a, you’d now have £3,467.07!

What would you do if you won a fortune? Tell us in the comments section below.


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4 years ago

Would absolutely love to put this one to the test!

4 years ago

no money is killing me i would rather have a lottery win and die loaded than die poor

4 years ago

Time the lottery got real and gave out more prizes of a sensible amount. I have heard many say they do not want millions, £250,000 or £500,000 max, these are still life-changing sums and more could benefit

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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