A FORMER Irish republican internee has won more than €12.5m in the lottery.
Joe Clarke discovered he had won the Euromillions jackpot last Thursday having bought a New Year's Day draw ticket at a filling station on the Springfield Road in Belfast.
The 60-year-old was awarded £12,500 (€15,300) as he was one of 11 internees, known as the "hooded men", who were arrested in August 1971.
He had a hood placed over his head for seven days and was subjected to torture in the form of white noise, sleep depravation and beatings.
He was also the victim of an Official IRA murder bid in 1975 when he was shot in the side at his parents' home.
Mr Clarke runs a car mechanics business with his son Emmett just yards from where he bought his ticket – Saveway Spar.
A life-long friend of Mr Clarke, who asked not be named, said everyone in the area was delighted.
"Everyone knows Joe," he said. "He worked in that garage six days a week, he's a real grafter. He has worked hard all his days so it's good to see him have a bit of luck."
He added: "Joe's a top man. He always has time for anyone he meets and is well-liked round here."
Last night Caitriona Slane, the member of staff who sold Mr Clarke his winning ticket, was behind the counter serving customers who hoped she would prove to be a lucky lottery charm for them.
"It's been mad all weekend," she said. "It hasn't stopped and everyone is talking about it."
The store's owner, Brendan McKee, described Mr Clarke as a "delightful man" who would always be willing to "pull you out of a hole".
Locals said Mr Clarke had helped to raise thousands of pounds for disadvantaged children in Belarus.
But following news of Mr Clarke's win, former world champion boxer Eamonn Magee spoke of his anger and labelled him a "coward".
Mr Clarke was sentenced to three years in prison – suspended for three years – following a baseball bat attack on Mr Magee in 2004 which left him with a broken leg and almost ended his boxing career.
They were neighbours at Lagmore Dale, where Mr Clarke still lives, when a dispute turned violent.
"Clarke put me in hospital for weeks," said Mr Magee.
"All this stuff about him being a nice guy is a load of crap – he's nothing but a coward. I had to learn how to walk again. He could have put me in a wheelchair for life."
Mr Magee said he would be seeking legal advice on whether he can pursue Mr Clarke for compensation following his lottery windfall.
Neighbours said they believe Mr Clarke has been staying in Dublin or Donegal since learning of his lottery win.
Mr Clarke was awarded compensation from the British Ministry of Defence and the former Home Affairs department of the then Northern Ireland government following his internment ordeal.
In 1992 Mr Clarke's brother Padraig was shot dead by loyalists at his north Belfast home.