Julie and her son haven't spoken for seven years. Now he's won 45m on the lottery she's desperate for a reunion – but insists it's NOT for the reason you'd think
21:04 GMT, 6 April 2012
'I've been falsely accused of abandoning my son and of being a bad mother,' said Julie Gamble
Julie Gamble was driving along in her nine-year-old Vauxhall Zafira when she noticed a gleaming new red Jaguar XKR-S waiting to pull out of a side road.
Luxury cars costing upwards of 100,000 are rare in this part of Nottingham, and suddenly it dawned on Julie that it was her 23-year-old son, Matthew Topham, sitting behind the steering wheel.
She caught just a fleeting glimpse of him in her rear-view mirror as he pulled out behind her with a throaty roar of the engine.
It was the closest she had been to
Matthew for seven years.
But any hope that her son might stop to talk to
her as she turned into her driveway after that chance encounter three
weeks ago disappeared with his tail lights.
Matthew drove past his
mother without so much as a wave or a toot on his car horn.
don’t know if he realised it was me in the car in front, but even if he
had he wouldn’t have stopped,’ says 50-year-old Julie, an office
worker, as she dabs her eyes with the first of many tissues.
have been lovely to reach out for him and give him a cuddle because I
love him to bits.
'I always have and always will, and I hope he knows
‘But he’s a young man.
He makes his own choices. Some are right, some are wrong, but he has to
live with the choices he makes, and he’s made his feelings towards me
has, and in the bluntest terms.
In short, she is persona non grata,
publicly banished from the life of a son who is rich beyond his wildest
It was in February
that painter and decorator Matthew Topham and his fiance Cassey
Carrington, 22, an Iceland store manager, were unveiled at a press
conference as the lucky winners of a mind-boggling 45 million
Euromillions jackpot to the popping of champagne corks.
champagne bubbles quickly went flat, however, as stories emerged of a
seven-year rift between Matthew and Julie.
It turned out that mother and
son had not spoken since Matthew chose to stay with his father Brian
after his parents’ acrimonious divorce in 2004 — for reasons Julie
insists she cannot fathom.
was a difficult situation, made all the more awkward by the fact that
67-year-old Brian lives just seven doors down from the house Julie
bought after the divorce and which she shares with her second husband,
airport worker Jason Gamble, 41, and Matthew’s siblings, Samantha, 19,
and Craig, 14.
Today, it is Julie who finds herself in the limelight, and for all the wrong reasons.
Four weeks ago, in an attempt to heal the rift, Julie wrote an emotional three-page letter to her son, begging him to explain why he has refused to see her for seven years.
Just an hour after it was delivered, a scrawled response landed on her doormat.
In a note addressed to ‘Julie’, as opposed to ‘Mum’, Matthew accused her of mistreating other family members and forcing him out of her life.
He finished the 12-line note by telling Julie he never wanted to hear from her again, and that she would never meet any children he and Cassey might have.
Little wonder, then, that Julie can’t hold back the tears at her neat four-bedroom home in Stapleford.
It was in February that painter and decorator Matthew Topham, 23, and his fiance Cassey Carrington, 22, were unveiled at a press conference as the lucky winners of a mind-boggling 45 million Euromillions jackpot
‘The past few weeks have been horrendous — I feel as if I have been thrown to the wolves,’ she says.
‘I’ve been falsely accused of abandoning my son and of being a bad mother,’ she reveals, in her first in-depth interview since her son’s extraordinary win.
‘I’ve been off work for two weeks with anxiety and depression, and I’m seeing a counsellor to try to cope with it all.
'Some days I feel too scared to go out and just want to hide. This lottery win has opened a big can of worms.’
To make matters even more painful, Julie’s mother, 84-year-old Betty Gordon, has entered the fray by branding her daughter ‘selfish’ and telling a red-top tabloid: ‘Matt wanted to live with his Dad, and Julie just stopped speaking to him. She hasn’t spoken to me and her sister for six years. She just cut herself off from the family.’
Julie reaches for another tissue. But is she crying for her lost son or, as some cynics have sneered, for the millions she is missing out on
After all, each week seems to bring a fresh story of Matt’s generosity towards other family members and friends.
Matthew and Cassey have reportedly vowed to give 1.3 million to their best friend, Eddie Smith, have paid off Brian Topham’s 80,000 mortgage and have also settled the mortgage of Matthew’s 44-year-old step-brother, Mark.
Then there’s the 28,000 Audi Quattro Matthew has reportedly given his step-brother Paul, 41, along with 30,000 for a house extension.
Matthew and Cassey have reportedly vowed to give 1.3 million to their best friend
In the circumstances, could Julie be blamed for dreaming of trading in her 2,000 Zafira for something a little more luxurious
‘I don’t want any of Matthew’s money. I was happy with my life before his lottery win, and I am still happy with it now,’ she insists, pulling from her wallet a treasured childhood photograph of her son.
‘I don’t begrudge Matt his good fortune. I’m pleased for him. The Matthew I left behind was a polite, kind boy, with morals and good manners. He deserves to be happy.
‘But I hope Matthew realises that while 45 million can buy you a lot of things, it can’t buy you happiness. And it certainly can’t buy you a mother.
‘I just want him to know that I’ve always been there for him, and I’ll always love him, no matter what.
'Why can’t he just tell me why he hasn’t spoken to me for seven years Don’t I deserve that at least
‘I’d be ecstatic if he knocked on my door and just let me be his mum again, but his letter banning me from his life broke my heart.
‘Matthew can keep his millions, because there is love, laughter and happiness in this house — something I never had with my former husband, Brian. No amount of money can buy that.’
As Julie speaks, it becomes clear she blames Brian for this whole sorry situation by ‘taking’ away her son from her after their unhappy 18-year marriage collapsed amid bitter rows.
Her view is firmly entrenched, despite Matthew praising his father at the press conference announcing his and Cassey’s spectacular win.
Julie was 17 when she met self-employed decorator Brian, who is 18 years her senior, at a party.
Six months later, she moved in with him and overnight became stepmother to Brian’s sons Mark and Paul, then aged 13 and ten, who lived with him after Brian’s first wife, Stephny, left him.
The couple married when Julie was 24 and Brian 42.
‘What Brian wanted, Brian got, and I went along with it because I loved him and didn’t really know any better,’ says Julie, who worked in human resources at the time.
‘He went out with his mates to the pub three nights a week, leaving me to look after the children. He was very old-fashioned, so even though I had a job, it was left to me to do all the cooking, cleaning and looking after the children.’
Cracks started to appear, Julie says, soon after Matthew was born.
Julie’s father Philip, 64, died on the day of the birth, and this, combined with a traumatic 22-hour labour, triggered post-natal depression that lasted 18 months.
Julie felt Brian was unsupportive then, and again in 1999 when her brother died suddenly, aged 40, from pancreatitis.
'I don't begrudge Matt his good fortune. I'm pleased for him,' said Julie
The Tophams started to argue frequently. Julie says she was so unhappy that there were many times when she wanted to leave.
‘I stayed with Brian because my confidence had been completely destroyed, and I thought: “Where will I go Who would want me” ’ she says.
Julie says she was faithful to Brian throughout their marriage and loved being a mother. She insists that she was close to all her children, always cuddling them and telling them she loved them, and so is mystified by Matthew’s coldness towards her.
She shows me the recent online posts her younger children have written in her defence. Craig describes his mum as ‘a saint’.
Samantha adds: ‘My mum is the best mum anyone could ask for! She is the most amazing woman I know. She is a legend.’
Julie says she bitterly regrets not fighting harder for Matt to live with her and his siblings after she divorced Brian in September 2004 and moved out of the marital home.
‘It was agreed that Craig would live with me because he was only seven, but the older two children were given a choice,’ says Julie, who put her 80,000 divorce settlement towards a new 180,000 house.
‘Samantha chose to come with me, but Matthew chose to stay with his dad. Yes, I was hurt by that, but I never pressed him to explain why because I didn’t want him to feel pressured.
‘I’d said to him all along: “I’d love you to come and live with me, but I’ll understand if you choose to stay with your dad.” He was in his final exam year at school, so perhaps he didn’t want the disruption.
‘I’d always been determined that regardless of what had gone on between me and Brian, the children should still have a relationship with their father. I encouraged it.
‘That’s why I bought a house a few doors away, so Samantha and Craig could see their dad whenever they wanted. Though Matthew chose to live with his dad, I thought he’d be popping in to see me all the time.’
Julie claims that on the day she left, Matthew changed his mind and told her: ‘Mum, I want to come and live with you.’
She says now: ‘I wish now I’d just said: “Come with me and we’ll sort it all out.” But I knew Brian would fight me for Matthew and I couldn’t face another battle. I felt traumatised by the rows, so I told Matthew he’d made his choice.
‘I told him I loved him, gave him a cuddle and said I was only down the road so he could come and see me any time.
‘That day I made the wrong choice. Matt came to my house only three times, then he stopped visiting.’
She last saw Matthew at Christmas 2004.
Relations between Julie and her former husband, who in a bizarre twist had reconciled with his first wife, Stephny, after the divorce, were seemingly so bad that Julie says all discussion with him was impossible.
Distraught at the worsening situation, Julie went for family counselling with Craig and Samantha, who regularly visited their father and were upset by the tensions between their parents.
‘The counsellor told me to concentrate on my two children and one day Matthew would come back to me,’ recalls Julie, who met her second husband, Jason, a divorced father-of-two, on an internet dating site in January 2009.
‘So that is what I did, hoping when he was older he’d ask to meet me.
‘Whenever I took Craig and Samantha for a day out, we would park outside Brian’s house and they would run in and ask Matthew if he wanted to join us, but he never did. I gave up trying.’
Samantha and Craig remain close to their brother. They were at his engagement party, and at the recent champagne bash at Brian’s house to toast the lottery win.
‘He’s their brother and they love him, but sometimes they feel torn,’ says Julie.
‘Only the other day, Samantha said: “This lottery win has made everything worse.” It has, but I don’t wish Matt had never won the money.’
A Camelot spokesman said that Matthew Topham did not wish to respond to his mother’s comments.
Brian Topham said: ‘I’m not interested in what Julie says. She can say what she wants.’
Julie’s mother, Betty Gordon, declined to comment.
Julie believes there is no chance of a reconciliation with her son — certainly not while her former husband is still alive.
If Matthew did turn up one day and offered Julie a slice of his fortune, would she take it
‘If I turned it down, would Matthew regard it as a snub’ she asks.
‘If I accepted it, would he think I was only after his money
‘I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I can’t win.’