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Thursday, September 30, 1999

Former couple battle for winning $2M lottery ticket
Judge reserves decision following week-long trial
Leslie Perreaux
Saskatoon StarPhoenix

MELFORT, Sask. - A judge reserved decision yesterday in a civil suit between a Saskatchewan man and his former girlfriend over who will get to keep a $2-million lottery ticket.

Accusations of deceit, violence and greed were flung by both sides in the week-long trial between David Allan Thompson and Berta Anne Haley, the woman who lived with him for three years in the tiny town of Arborfield, Sask.

Mr. Thompson, a 52-year-old farm hand, claims he bought a Lotto 6/49 ticket in May, 1998, and gave it to Ms. Haley. He called their relationship loving and caring and testified that he was shocked when she left him, ticket in hand, shortly after learning it was worth $2.16-million in the lottery draw.

However, Ms. Haley, a 49-year-old former worker at a drycleaning shop, has portrayed Mr. Thompson as an abusive man who controlled her every move and lived off Ms. Haley's income while collecting welfare.

Mr. Justice R. Dennis Maher, of Court of Queen's Bench, will rule early next year on how the winnings will be divided.

Mr. Thompson has claimed half of the winning ticket. He is also seeking $500,000 in punitive damages for evidence and testimony Ms. Haley presented in court, which he says is false.

Ms. Haley maintained she planned for months to leave Mr. Thompson and that winning the lottery the day she left was coincidence. Ron Gates, her lawyer, called six witnesses, including Ms. Haley's hair dresser, who all recounted conversations long before the lottery win in which Ms. Haley said she was leaving Mr. Thompson.

Ms. Haley also produced entries in her journal to show she frequently bought lottery tickets, including the winning one.

But Mr. Thompson claims he bought the ticket and called a handwriting expert who testified that the 10 month's of journal entries were probably written with the same pen.

"It is very clear she fabricated that document to bolster a weak case and to deny Mr. Thompson what is rightfully his," said his lawyer, Greg Kuse.

To help Mr. Thompson's claim that he bought the ticket, his lawyers introduced two bags of microwave popcorn bought at the same time as the ticket.

But Ms. Haley's lawyers told the court that Mr. Thompson's own version of events has not been entirely consistent.

Several times before the trial, Mr. Thompson said he did not remember if he bought the winning ticket. At trial last week, he suddenly remembered buying the ticket in nearby Tisdale.

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