Fact Check

Lottery Suicide

Did a man who forgot to play his lotto numbers kill himself when they came up?

Published Dec. 31, 1998


Claim:   A man committed suicide because he mistakenly believed his lotto numbers had come up the one week he didn't play them.

Status:   True.

Origins:   In April 1995 Timothy O'Brien committed suicide by shooting himself in the head because his half-share of a five-week ticket on Britain's (then) new National Lottery had expired just before the draw he thought would have made him a multi-millionaire.

The truth is, even if he'd held a valid ticket for his usual numbers, O'Brien wouldn't have won. The numbers that came up would have entitled the ticketholders to a prize of 47 pounds, not the 3.2 million he thought he and his partner had missed out on. And why? Because only four of the six numbers matched those drawn.

Barbara "innumeracy kills" Mikkelson

Originally published:   31 December 1998
Last updated:   12 January 2016

  Sources Sources:

    Bunyan, Nigel.   "Father Shot Himself Over Jackpot That Never Was."

    The Daily Telegraph.   16 June 1995   (p. 3).

    Oldfield, Stephen.   "Tragedy of the Lottery Loser."

    Daily Mail.   11 April 1995   (p. 1).

    Reuters.   "British Lottery Suicide Prompts Calls for Reform."

    11 April 1995.

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