The Tragic Story of Would-Be Lottery Winner Tim O'Brien

Winning the lottery can be a thrilling experience when you realize that your efforts have paid off. However, the reverse can also be true, and the experience can quickly turn sour if you realise that the numbers you usually play have been drawn on a week that you didn’t purchase a ticket. Such is the tragic story of would-be lottery winner Tim O’Brien (not to be confused with author Tim O’Brien).

Disheveled Man Crying into HandThe Agreement

Tim, who was 51 years old back in 1995, was a married father of two who worked as a tool-room servicer in Liverpool, UK. Like many other people, Tim had dreams of what he and his family would do with a significant lottery win. It was from these dreams that Tim formed an agreement with a co-worker that the two would pool their money together each week to purchase a lottery ticket for the National Lottery with the understanding that any winnings would be equally shared amongst them.

This agreement continued for some time and seemed to work well for the two. There is no news as to whether or not the two ever won any small amounts, but Tim’s story only really starts when the lottery jackpot reached a staggering £8 million in June 1995. While this may not sound like a huge jackpot today, in those days it was a rather large amount.

The Draw

As was the standard, Tim purchased all the lottery tickets for him and his partner. The two agreed that they would always play the same six numbers: 14, 24, 33, 38, 42, and 47. Prior to the big draw, Tim yet again purchased a ticket with the numbers and ensured that it was valid for the next five draws. Therefore, when the draw arrived, Tim was confident that all was well and that he and his co-worker had a valid ticket for the draw.

As soon as the draw was over, Tim was ecstatic. While there is some speculation as to whether he matched all the numbers or only four of them, Tim was convinced that he and his partner would be able to claim their share of the jackpot—£2.7 million—and the rest of the jackpot would be paid to other winners. However, if he did in fact only match four of the numbers, then all they'd have won is £27 pounds. We certainly hope that he 100% confirmed this discrepancy before he decided to do what he did next.

Unhappy National Lottery LogoThe Results Are In

The waves of ecstasy that Tim was feeling quickly turned to despair as he realised that he had made a colossal mistake. The ticket that he had purchased for five draws had already expired with the previous draw—meaning that he had no valid ticket for the current winning draw. Tim immediately tried to contact his co-worker to explain the circumstances and tell him the horrifying news.

Unfortunately, Tim was unable to get hold of him, and Tim's wife recounted that he was extremely distressed. We cannot say that we blame him considering the fact that, if he did have all the winning numbers, he would have been £1.35 million richer—again, no small amount in 1995, or even now!

The Loss

The loss of his winnings and the stress of the situation soon overwhelmed Tim. Neighbours later told the police that they heard a single gunshot coming from next door late at night. Sadly for Mrs. O’Brien, she had to be the person to enter into their home attic to see her husband slumped over in a chair. On the floor was a growing pool of blood from where he had shot himself—leaving her a single mother of two. While we've read about a few other winners, including Martyn Tott, who came extremely close to winning but didn't actually take home any money, Tim's story is by far the most heart-wrenching. 


The stress of the situation was too much for Tim and, rather than dealing with the consequences of his loss and facing his co-worker, he opted to escape instead—in the hardest way possible. His actions soon sparked investigations into the effects of massive jackpots on lottery winners as well as the way that people generally react to lottery winnings and large sums of money. Roy Barter—the coroner who dealt with the case—stated that he wondered if the lottery could lead to serious social problems, as had occurred in Tim’s case.

The investigations never concluded with anything being said regarding the effects of lottery winnings, and all the parties concerned continued with their lives. However, Tim’s actions serve as a stark reminder to us about the effects that the lottery could have. One thing that is important to remember is that no amount of money will ever be able to replace a human life. And that is something that we would all do well to remember, especially if we find ourselves in a situation like Tim where a simple mistake could have long-reaching and permanent consequences.  

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