Lottery winner Callie Rogers ‘
I’ve only got £2k left – but I’ve never been happier’

It’s been 10 years since teenager Callie Rogers’ life changed forever when she became the youngest person in Britain to scoop the jackpot on the National Lottery.


by Closer staff |
Published on

She was just 16 when she won £1.9m. Staggeringly, a decade on, Callie – who has recreated the iconic shot of her holding a £1.9m cheque in 2003 for Closer – only has £2k of her winnings left.

But, surprisingly, she says she’s happier than ever because, more important than wealth, she’s got love and direction in her life. As well as looking after her three children, Kian, Debony and Blake, she loves her job as a carer and is training to be a nurse. She also has the support of her boyfriend Paul Penny, who she describes as her “rock.”

“I can’t believe 10 years have passed since I stood holding that huge cheque,” says Callie, who lives with Paul, 34, in a modest £80k three-bed house in Workington, Cumbria.

“It feels like a lifetime ago. So much has happened – terrible and amazing. I don’t think of myself as a lottery winner – I try to forget the ups and downs I’ve been through and just feel like a normal person. It was too much money for someone so young. Even if you say your life won’t change, it does and often not for the better.”

Callie was living with foster parents – after leaving home during her biological parents’ difficult separation – and earning £3.60 an hour as a Co-op checkout girl in Cockermouth, Cumbria, when her numbers came up on 28 June 2003.

“Everything seemed to move at a million miles an hour. I never wanted my win to be made public, but the media found out. I was elated, but scared.”

Recalling the moment, Callie says: “I was at a friend’s house watching TV and chatting, then I slowly began ticking off the numbers. Initially, I thought I had three and I was jumping up and down thinking I’d won £10. Then I realised I had them all. It was surreal. I went into total shock and started screaming and crying.

“I rang my friends, parents and foster parents and got them to check my ticket a million times – nobody could believe it. That night, I lay awake – but I wasn’t even thinking about how to spend it, as I had no concept of what it would buy.”

The next day, Callie gave a press conference wearing a short denim skirt and long black boots. She says: “Everything seemed to move at a million miles an hour. I never wanted my win to be made public, but the media found out. I was elated, but scared.”

Camelot put Callie in touch with a financial advisor but, within days, she decided she wanted to buy herself a house – and places for her mum and foster parents. Within a month, she’d snapped up a £180k bungalow in a nearby village and a £76k home for her mum.

But she quickly started to struggle, admitting moving in on her own was a big mistake. She says: “My foster family begged me to stay, but I wanted independence. I didn’t know how to care for myself and I stayed in a lot – it got difficult going out, with people stopping me all the time. I got up late and lived off takeaways. And so-called mates would come over until the early hours to party.”

Callie in 2010 before her money had run out
Callie in 2010 before her money had run out

Although she wanted to return to work, the Co-op told her it would be difficult. She explains: “They said all the attention I got was disruptive. I was gutted – I ended up with no routine. I felt too embarrassed to apply for other jobs – it felt silly as I didn’t need one.”

And while everyone seemed to want to be her friend, people she thought were mates sold stories about her to the press. She explains: “Suddenly, I was a local celeb and people would come up to me in pubs as if they were my best friend and I felt pressure to buy them all drinks. I didn’t know who to trust.

'When my life was dragged up in the papers, it was painful knowing someone close to me was responsible. They focused on Mum’s problems struggling to raise me – I’d cry because I didn’t know who was saying these things. I felt guilty dragging my family into it. Worst of all were the begging letters I got from strangers, asking for money. They made me feel so guilty.”

'We were out almost every night. My ‘friends’ were just people I met while out or through him. I started drinking and partying more. I was desperate to fit in'

'Callie tried to enjoy her wealth by taking her mum, Susan Jenkinson, 44, on their first foreign holiday to Greece, getting her hair and nails done regularly and splashing out in Topshop and New Look, and on limos for nights out with mates. But nothing brought her the happiness she expected. She says: “I felt lost and not like me.”

In August 2003, she met boyfriend Nicky Lawson, who was unemployed, through pals, but life with him brought even more partying.

She says: “We were out almost every night. My ‘friends’ were just people I met while out or through him. I started drinking and partying more. I was desperate to fit in and, whenever anyone asked to borrow money, I’d hand it over – and most of the time I never got it back. I paid for the majority of our nights out – I have no idea how much they cost, but rarely less than £200.”

In 2005, the pair had their first child, Kian, now eight. She says: “He wasn’t planned – and I didn’t feel ready to be a mum. But Nicky and I decided to go ahead. I’d always wanted a baby.”

The pregnancy forced Callie to give up partying, but she explains the pressure of growing up quickly took its toll on her self-esteem and she grew increasingly depressed. Tragically, in November 2005, she tried to commit suicide.

She says: “I took paracetamol and sleeping tablets. I thought everyone would be better off without me. Fortunately, my family found me and took me to hospital. I tried counselling, but didn’t get on with it. I felt guilty, like I shouldn’t be unhappy when I was so rich.”

Callie continued racing through her money – holidaying in Disneyland, the Bahamas and Mexico, shopping in DKNY and Diesel, buying new cars and a £4k boob job. She also bought gold necklaces for her family and a motorbike for her dad. She says: “I hoped these things would cheer me up, but they never did for long.”

Callie - here during Christmas 2008 with Kian and Debony - says her life now revolves around her children

Callie had daughter Debony in 2007, but her relationship was rocky and she split up with Nicky around a year later. They now have joint access.

On top of the stress, Callie – who insists she rarely checked her bank balance – noticed her win was starting to dwindle. She says: “Suddenly, I was down to five digits. The money felt like a pressure by then – I felt I had to be living the high life constantly, and others expected handouts. I just wanted to be normal.”

Callie struggled with depression until she met fireman Paul Penny on a night out in 2010. She says: “Paul had no idea who I was or that I was ever a millionaire. I didn’t tell him – after a while, he found out from mates, but he fell for me, not the money.”

Life hasn’t been easy for the couple – in September 2011, she fell pregnant with twins but, tragically, one of the twins, Mason, was delivered stillborn, for unknown reasons. His brother Blake, now one, survived – but the pair struggled with their heartbreak.

'We shop at Tesco, save for holidays and stay in with takeaways. My life revolves around the kids...I’m glad they’ll grow up knowing the value of money.'

The past year’s been painful, but Callie now admits she’s truly happy for the first time since her lottery win. Callie, who has a mortgage for the house she lives in, but no other investments, says: “I have just £2k in the bank – Paul works and I’m mostly a stay-at-home mum, but also work two days a week as a carer for the elderly. We’re a normal family and save. The pressure to splash out and live a glam party life has gone – and I prefer it.

“We shop at Tesco, save for holidays and stay in with takeaways. My life revolves around the kids and, if they want something expensive, they wait for birthdays and Christmas. I’m glad they’ll grow up knowing the value of money. The older kids don’t remember having more, so they don’t miss anything.”

Callie, who is doing an NVQ in caring and starts college training to be a nurse next year, adds: “I love looking after people. For so long, I drifted with no aims. Now I have a job and my family to care for. I was too young to win the lottery – I don’t think 16 year olds should be eligible. It nearly broke me, but thankfully, I’m now stronger than ever.”

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