$23 million Lotto mystery solved - Wednesday 23rd of May 2007

A 12-MONTH investigation involving detectives, accountants, lawyers and government agencies has solved the mystery of Queenslands $23m lottery win.

A Brisbane northside man – believed to be a middle-aged battler – will be presented with the massive eight-figure cheque from Golden Casket this week.

His identity still remains a secret three years on – for now.

The unregistered player who bought the winning ticket from the Nundah Newsagency for the September 30, 2004, Powerball draw initially failed to come forward.

Sources said he lost his ticket and gave up hope of claiming the $23,209,172.93 jackpot.

But a 12-month investigation involving detectives, forensic accountants, lawyers and government agencies has resulted in a successful claim for what was then Queenslands biggest lottery prize.

The Sunday Mail can reveal:

• The man was one of 10 people whose claims that they had won the $23 million prize were taken seriously, while hundreds of others were dismissed.

• He was not alone when he bought the ticket and people with him at the time backed up his claims that he was the rightful winner.

• Security camera footage captured him as he went to the newsagency to buy the winning ticket.

• He finally gets his first division prize only after a recent government law change easing payout policy.

• The winner has agreed to donate the $2 million-plus interest to medical research.

• He defied odds of 27.4 million-to-one to win the prize, and even greater odds to eventually claim his money after losing his ticket.

The story captured headlines around the world in 2004 as it was Australias largest unclaimed lottery prize.

It became one of the states most enduring mysteries as no one came forward month after month, year after year.

The winner – who Nundah residents speculated was a local – had seven years to claim the prize. The winning numbers for draw 437 were 30, 7, 1, 23, 32 and the Powerball was 22.

Golden Casket advertised and also undertook letterbox drops in the surrounding area.

They sent out newsletters, ran website links and media campaigns in Queensland, interstate and overseas.

"Its unusual for someone to take this long to come forward, but because it was an unregistered ticket we cant call them," the Golden Caskets Karen Anning said at the time.

"We just want them to contact Golden Casket so we can verify the ticket. They are literally walking around with $23 million in their back pocket."

But what they didnt know was that the winner had lost his winning ticket.

Over the next year, more than 200 people claimed they had won the prize.

They were asked to fill out a form which required specific details such as time and date purchased, type of ticket – a process of elimination aimed at identifying the valid entry.

No claim was successful.

About 10 people – including the winner – took the next serious step of completing a lost/damaged coupon claim and provided other relevant details to support their claim, including a sworn affidavit.

Only his claim provided enough detail to warrant further investigation.

That in-depth probe began in early 2006 involving detectives, forensic accountants, lawyers and government agencies.

They interviewed the claimant, those with him on the date of purchase, current and former associates, and the former owners of the Nundah Newsagency, Paul and Thelma Dewick.

Investigators conducted time trials for travel involved in the claim, examined his version of events leading up to and during the actual sale, and studied nearby closed-circuit security TV footage.

The final link in the chain required a change of legislation, an amendment to the Lotteries Act which had previously meant a person had to be a registered player with a registration card or could produce the winning ticket to claim their prize.

The Bill – which enabled other forms of proof to be acceptable – was passed by State Parliament in April.

One other lottery prize remains unclaimed: $1,220,794, bought on June 20, 2001, from Hyperdome News and Casket at Loganholme.

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