Belfast Telegraph

£27m Strabane lottery winner facing jail over taxi driver assault

By Patricia Devlin

Record-breaking Lotto winner Margaret Loughrey is facing the grim prospect of becoming Northern Ireland’s richest jailbird.

The Strabane woman who scooped £27 million in 2013 has confessed to assaulting a taxi driver in her home town.

Cabbie Patrick Canning had to ring 999 for help after the woman dubbed Maggie Millions “went mad” and attacked him in his car last May, a court heard last week.

The troubled 50-year-old - who the court was told had been cautioned for a similar offence last year- entered a last-minute guilty plea to three charges at Strabane Magistrates’ Court last week and is now anxiously awaiting the judge’s decision on sentencing.

Looking frail and drawn, she stood in the dock wearing a purple shirt and jeans. Since her EuroMillions triumph, she has had her hair cut short and dyed blonde.

Loughrey had originally denied the charges of assault, criminal damage and attempted criminal damage, but shortly before the planned contest hearing in Strabane, she pleaded guilty to all three offences. 

Her victim Patrick Canning was also present in court when her legal team asked for charges to be put to her again on Thursday.

After indicating a guilty plea to the common assault charge, a  barrister acting on behalf of the wealthy divorcee indicated guilty pleas to the remaining two charges.

A prosecution solicitor gave a brief outline of the facts to District Judge Nigel Broderick, explaining that police were alerted to the incident on May 14 after receiving a 999 call from Mr Canning.

Mr Canning told officers that Loughrey, whom he had picked up for a fare minutes earlier, “went mad” before damaging his glasses and attempting to damage the taxi’s sat nav system.

District Judge Nigel Broderick said he had no choice but to order a pre-sentence report due to the nature of the attack and the fact the victim was a taxi driver.

When Mr Broderick asked if Loughrey had a revelant record, the prosecution solicitor replied that she received a caution for a similar offence last year.

The judge released Loughrey on continuing bail and ordered her to attend an appointment with Probation Service.

Loughrey, who has cut off her long brunette locks, since winning the huge jackpot, politely declined to speak to Sunday Life when approached by our reporter outside the court.

Instead she was escorted to a nearby Mercedes car.

Loughrey is scheduled to reappear at Strabane Magistrates’ Court on August 13.

Loughrey's troubled life after massive win

MARGARET Loughrey’s conviction for assaulting a taxi driver is the latest in a long line of woes for the woman who scooped the £27m EuroMillions jackpot in December 2013.

The unemployed Strabane divorcee was receiving £58 per week in benefits when her EuroMillions lucky dip numbers came up - and she instantly raced to the upper ranks of Northern Ireland’s rich list.

Following her win, she told her local newspaper that she would not be leaving Strabane.

“Definitely not. It won’t change who I am. Strabane will always be home for me,” said Margaret.

But the last two years have not been plain sailing for ‘Maggie Millions’.

She was reportedly left “hurt and distressed” after being detained under the Mental Health Act at Derry’s Gransha Hospital last year.

She was sectioned and held at the psychiatric facility after doctors said she posed a danger to herself or to others.

However she successfully appealed the detention.

A few months later, in September 2014 she became embroiled in a heated row with a famous Co Tyrone cricket club after buying the derelict Herdman’s Mill and estate.

Loughrey had been hailed as a hero for saving the Sion Mills site from being turned into a bio-waste plant and announced plans to create a tourist attraction with sports facilities.

But then Sion Mills Cricket Club claimed the local woman had “locked” them out of their grounds, that sit on the huge 60-acre Herdman’s Mill site.

The club was forced to miss two games over the row, before Ms Loughrey also banned the local bowling club from using the green.

The row was eventually settled after she met with the clubs.

And in May this year Sunday Life revealed how taxi firms in Strabane were left up in arms over her plans to set up a cut-price cab business.

Jobs for Loughrey’s Fair Fares company were advertised at the start of the year, with the Tyrone woman splashing out thousands for a fleet of vehicles.

However the business has so far failed to get off the ground.

In an interview with Sunday Life last year, Ms Loughrey told of her plans to give away most of her fortune.

She claimed she would keep just £1 million of her windfall, with £13.5 million already handed out to a range of causes.

She also told of plans to use the other £12.5 million to help improve the local economy and provide social amenities in her town.

She wanted to build a museum highlighting the area’s industrial heritage as well as football pitches and a bowling alley for local people to use.

She said the historic Herdman’s Mill in Sion Mills, which she bought for around £1 million, would be transformed into a 62-acre leisure and tourism complex.

“As soon as I won the money I said it would go for the good of the town,” she said at the time.

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