This is the lottery ticket said to belong to Susanne Hinte, from Worcester, who is at the centre of a jackpot puzzle

It is crumpled, torn and stained. But this sorry-looking ticket may – the emphasis, for the moment, has to be on the may – be worth a cool £33m.

This is an image of a lottery ticket said to belong to Susanne Hinte, from Worcester, who is at the centre of a jackpot puzzle. Family members have said that a ticket bought by Hinte at her local newsagent’s appearing to bear the winning numbers was found after being put through the wash in a pair of her jeans.

Camelot, the National Lottery operator, has refused to comment on the case and said hundreds of people who believed they may have won had come forward.

Hinte herself has kept a low profile at her flat since her name emerged in the media but the saga took at twist when this image purporting to be of the winning ticket surfaced. Clearly, if the image is genuine, there are problems with the ticket.

The numbers – 26, 27, 46, 47, 52 and 58 – do match those that were drawn out on Saturday 9 January but other identifying features used to verify that a ticket is genuine are missing, including:

The date the ticket was purchased is missing from the top right corner. There appears to be a tear where this should be.

The identifying number, which is reproduced on the top and bottom of the ticket, is not legible.

The Millionaire Raffle number, which is automatically generated when the ticket is purchased and gives the ticket holder the chance to win £1m, cannot be seen.

Two security barcodes – one at the top right, the other along the bottom – are incomplete.

The focus on Worcester and then on Hinte, 48, began on Thursday last week, just under a fortnight after the draw was made. As is usual when it is trying to encourage a missing winner to come forward, Camelot announced the vague area where the winning unclaimed ticket had been bought. It named Worcester, where around 50 shops sell lottery tickets.

The next day, Friday 22 January, Camelot’s senior winners’ adviser, Andy Carter, visited the city with a giant cheque made out to a “mystery millionaire” for £33,035,323.

He said: “We want the people of Worcester to check their tickets. We want them to check down the side of sofas, in pockets, in gloves compartments, on shelves – just anything that can help them find the winning ticket.”

As part of that publicity drive, lottery representatives in the area recommended four clean, friendly shops where the media could film and report from. Among them was Ambleside News, run for the last 27 years by Natu and Hansa Patel. Mr Patel, 64, welcomed in – and charmed – the film crews.

Camelot – or at least a “handful” of security experts – know exactly where and when the winning ticket was bought. The company emphasises it has not, and would never, identify the actual shop. However, word spread that the winning ticket was bought at the Patels’ store. Camelot describes this as “crossed wires”. Local reporters began digging for the winner, focusing on the area around Ambleside News. There was chatter on social media – and suddenly Hinte’s name popped out.

She has not spoken or been pictured but her daughter, Natasha Douglas, told an agency reporter: “The ticket has been through the wash, the numbers are visible but faded. She wanted to stay anonymous but obviously her name has got out through people talking on Facebook. When she found out she had the winning numbers she couldn’t breathe and she hasn’t slept since.”

It is no surprise she wanted to remain anonymous. In the past few days her life has been pored over. Friends said she was long separated from her second husband, but he emerged, revealed they were not divorced and wondered whether he could be in for a payday.

Camelot continues to bat off requests to spill the beans about the claim. It refuses to say whether the winning ticket was bought at Ambleside. Perhaps, significantly, Natu Patel said Camelot had not asked him for his CCTV footage of his shop at the time the winning ticket was bought.

The lottery operator said it had the discretion to pay prizes even if tickets were stolen, destroyed or lost. A spokesperson said: “If the player can provide sufficient evidence, we will investigate and consider the validity of the claim. Such evidence may include where and when the ticket was bought, how the numbers were chosen (eg lucky dip or chosen numbers), how many lines played and other relevant information. If we subsequently determine that the claim is valid, we then have the discretion to pay the prize 180 days after the draw.”

But it said it had received hundreds of claims. “All of these are currently being considered on a case-by-case basis, and we will follow up with all claimants directly to advise them whether their claim will be investigated further. Given the volume and the fact that some claims may require further information from the players involved, the process will take time.

“We will contact claimants as soon as possible, but obviously need to ensure we have thoroughly investigated all claims. We do not comment publicly on any ongoing claims and would only provide further information once a prize has been validated and paid out. In the event of a stolen, lost or destroyed claim, this could not happen until 180 days after the draw at the earliest.”

Camelot warned people against making false claims. The spokesperson said: “With prizes of this size, it’s perfectly normal to receive lots of claims from people who genuinely think that they may have mislaid or thrown away what they believe was the winning ticket.

“That’s what we’re seeing now, and we are looking into all of these claims as part of our efforts to find the rightful ticket holder. However, if we believe that somebody has intentionally attempted to defraud the National Lottery, then, just like any other company, we reserve the right to take whatever action we consider is appropriate.”

Hinte is said to be feeling the pressure. One person who is remaining sanguine is Patel. “I remember her buying the ticket and I really hope it is the winning one,” he said. His trade in lottery tickets and in newspapers telling the story has certainly been boosted by the saga. “We are certainly seeing increased footfall. People are thinking this is a lucky shop.”

It emerged later on Wednesday that Hinte is due to appear before magistrates charged with theft. The charge is not connected to the lottery ticket claim. Vinny Bolina, spokesman for West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, said: “We can confirm that Suzanna Hinte has been charged with two counts of theft. She will appear at Birmingham magistrates on 1 March.”

The CPS has a slightly different spelling to the one on the electoral roll at Hinte’s home.
Source: Is this lottery ticket worth £33m? | UK news | The Guardian