TORONTO — A Hamilton woman who bought a lottery ticket more than a year ago and then lost it, received a cheque for $50 million on Tuesday, becoming the winner of what officials called the biggest unclaimed jackpot in Canadian history.
Kathryn Jones's case is "unique" because it is the first time the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. identified and located a winner through its claims-investigation process, CEO Rod Phillips told reporters.
For the soft-spoken Jones, the experience has been an "interesting" one.
"It has been very weird, but on the other hand it is wonderful because the results are going to be life-changing," said the 55-year-old mother of two.
Jones bought a ticket at a Shoppers Drug Mart in Cambridge, Ont., in 2012 during a stressful time at work, a purchase she said wasn't part of a routine.
"I buy them sporadically, once in a blue moon," she said. "I was having a rough day."
The $16 ticket turned out to have the winning jackpot numbers from the Nov. 30, 2012 Lotto Max draw, but OLG said Jones didn't claim her prize.
Instead, the gaming agency received more than 435 claims for that draw and in the process of reviewing them it found Jones had the winning ticket.
That led investigators to her door on a Saturday late last year.
"We thought maybe they were trying to sell something so we weren't going to let them in the house," Jones recalled with a laugh.
When Jones wasn't able to find her ticket, OLG carried out its lost ticket prize claim process to ensure she was the rightful winner. That investigation included interviews with Jones, using the OLG transactions database to verify her purchase, checking surveillance video that showed her buying the ticket and referencing her credit card statements.
OLG said there have been about 5,500 cases during the past two years where people have tried to claim winnings without having their tickets.
After finally receiving her winnings, Jones said she's still deciding what to do with the money. "I'm suddenly going to have a lot more options than I had before and the opportunities to do some pretty cool things," she said, adding international travel and setting up a local charity are among her plans.
"I've been so busy with work and kids so it's going to be kind of nice to have all those options open."
Being in the spotlight after winning, however, is a little daunting.
"I think the most difficult part is losing your obscurity," she said. "We're very quiet, very private people so suddenly to lose that and have everyone know what was going on was a bit stressful for me."
Jones, an engineer, did however decide to retire from her job and focus full time on handling her new-found cash. "I thought I'm going to be really busy just organizing all this and investing this and making sure that it's sustainable," she said. "I really have to focus on that."
-- The Canadian Press