EuroMillions winner spared jail after killing pensioner in Christmas Day crash

Josh Payne, PA
·3-min read

A lottery winner has been spared jail despite killing a pensioner in a Christmas Day road crash.

Matthew Topham admitted causing the death of 75-year-old Mary Jane Regler by careless driving on December 25, 2019 after taking his eyes off the road to retrieve his screaming two-year-old son’s teddy bear.

The 31-year-old won £45 million on the EuroMillions in 2012, and Lincoln Crown Court heard he had spent some of the money on a collection of cars, a house for his wife’s parents and helping his dad retire.

After the hearing, Topham issued a statement which read: “I cannot begin to express the remorse I feel about the tragic events of December 25, 2019.

“I am deeply sorry for my actions and the devastating impact that they have had on the Regler family, and I will carry that guilt with me forever.”

The court heard the defendant looked away from the road for “a split second” before veering on to the wrong side of the road in his BMW and colliding with a Ford Fiesta driven by Mrs Regler’s husband Rodney.

Giving evidence in his trial, Topham described his actions as “terrible”, but said every time his child let out the “piercing” scream it made him “crazy”.

He had been travelling home from visiting his wife’s parents when the crash occurred on Louth Road in North Cockerington, Lincolnshire, at around 5.50pm.

Mrs Regler died from severe chest injuries and Mr Regler suffered serious injuries.

A jury accepted the lottery winner’s submissions that his driving was only careless, and found him not guilty of causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

Sentencing Topham on Thursday, Judge Catarina Sjolin Knight handed him a 16-week suspended sentence and told him he would be the subject of an electronic tag and curfew.

The defendant, of Swinderby, Lincolnshire, was also banned from driving for 12 months.

The judge told Topham he made “the wrong decision” when he took his eyes off the road to pick up his son’s teddy bear.

She said: “It was a deliberate decision to continue driving on a dark, winding road.

Matthew Topham court case
Topham was spared jail at Lincoln Crown Court on Thursday (Joe Giddens/PA)

“This was an avoidable decision.”

The judge told Topham she accepted he had to “carry the burden of taking a life”.

In a victim impact statement read by prosecution barrister Michael Cranmer-Brown, Mr Regler paid tribute to his “beloved” wife, adding: “My life has changed forever.”

He said: “No matter what happens, nothing can bring my wife back to me.

“It has ruined my life, but I will not let this dictate my life.

“I bear the driver no malice but I will never forgive him for what he has done to me and my family.”

In a statement read to the court by Mr Cranmer-Brown, Mrs Regler’s daughter Lesley said “heartbroken doesn’t come close” to describing her feelings after her mother’s death.

She added: “I’m just existing now. I have lost the one person in life who loved me with all their heart.”

Matthew Topham
Topham won £45 million on EuroMillions in 2012 (Rui Vieira/PA)

Mrs Regler’s son David also spoke of his distress through a victim impact statement, describing his mother’s death as “very traumatic”.

He said: “More than anything, the chance to say goodbye was taken away from me.

“Christmas will always be a time tinged with sadness.”

Speaking after the sentencing hearing, Detective Inspector Joanna Reeves of Lincolnshire Police’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit said: “The circumstances of the crash bring home just how very important it is for drivers to keep full attention on the road ahead.

“There are distractions both inside and outside of vehicles and while in hindsight the right thing for Matthew Topham to do would have been to find a safe place to pull over.

“He didn’t do that and he now lives with the consequences.”