It began with £5 online bet

Unlucky: A bet on tennis player Victoria Azarenka at Wimbledon cost Justyn Larcombe, 17,000 when she fell and injured herself during the match. Photo: Mail Online

Unlucky: A bet on tennis player Victoria Azarenka at Wimbledon cost Justyn Larcombe, £17,000 when she fell and injured herself during the match. Photo: Mail Online

Four years ago, Justyn Larcombe’s life was little short of perfect. He and his wife, Emma, owned a £450,000 townhouse in the genteel Derbyshire village of Ashbourne, where they lived with their baby son, Matthew.
After a distinguished career in the Army, Justyn had moved into finance, earning a six-figure salary at a boutique insurance broking firm in the City of London.
He drove a £30,000 Porsche while Emma had a black Mercedes. They holidayed in luxury villas in Italy and Spain, and frequently dined out with friends.
Since then, things have unravelled spectacularly. Today, Justyn, 44, lives alone in a rented cottage in Shipbourne, Kent.
Emma, 39, remains 200 miles away in Ashbourne having moved in with her parents last year, taking Matthew, now five, and his younger brother Oscar, three, with her.
The Porsche is long gone, sold — along with most of Justyn’s possessions — to service debts of almost £100,000.
The reason? A crippling addiction to online gambling which cost Justyn both his job and his family, and saw him squander £750,000.
In Justyn’s case, the descent into addiction began with something as simple as a casual £5 bet on a rugby match, made one Saturday afternoon in September 2009.
“I can’t even remember who was playing,” he recalls. “I’d spotted an advert for Betfair and thought I’d look at its website. Perhaps I was bored and wanted a thrill.”

Justyn Larcombe. Photo: Mail Online

Justyn Larcombe. Photo: Mail Online

Betfair is a gambling website which allows users to place bets on sports events and play simulated versions of traditional casino games such as roulette and blackjack.
Justyn put £5 on the winning team, at evens, and doubled his money.
It wasn’t long before things were spiralling out of control. Within a year, Justyn was betting thousands every weekend, driven by the urge to recreate the thrill of his early wins.
He lost £17,000 on a single tennis match, after backing the Belarusian tennis player Victoria Azarenka, then World No 1, against an unknown.
He found excuses to spend more and more time online. He starting working from home, telling his company the six-hour round trip to his office in London was too time-consuming.
When he should have been on the phone to clients, he was betting on sport or playing roulette.
“I’d go into my study at 8:00am and tell Emma I was working and didn’t want any interruptions until 4:00pm,” he says.
She had no reason to suspect anything. When the couple’s second son, Oscar, was born in May 2010, she gave up her job managing her family’s hotel to look after the boys, cashing in her stake in the hotel for £70,000, which she gave to Justyn for safekeeping.
That summer, Justyn and Emma sold their home, intending to find somewhere bigger. They rented a cottage while they house-hunted.
Unbeknown to Emma, Justyn began to work his way through the £100,000 they had set aside for a deposit.
There was no disguising the family’s tightening budget — foreign holidays became a thing of a past, and the Porsche was sold for £18,000.
But Justyn told his wife this was simply because their savings were tied up in investments, and said the missing silver was “being repaired”.
Inevitably, his addiction took its toll on more than just his bank balance. He found himself becoming increasingly neglectful of his sons.
Matthew suffers from hemiplegia, a condition limiting his movement on the right-hand side, as well as autism and epilepsy. He needs to be closely monitored — yet, in the grip of his obsession, Justyn left him alone in the car for more than two hours.
Then, last summer, Justyn, who had begun using his company credit card to fund his gambling, was confronted by the chief executive and resigned.
Not long after, Emma stumbled upon the truth after seeing one of Justyn’s bank statements in his office.
“I was in the garden with the boys — she just came out and said: “I know everything.” ’
They spent the day phoning up debt counsellors, totting up Justyn’s losses, and working out how to cope with their budgetary black hole with the help of one of Emma’s friends, who works in financial services.
It was too little too late. Emma left soon afterwards, taking the boys and moving in with her parents. She has since filed for divorce.
Unemployed, virtually penniless, and parted from his beloved family, Justyn’s life was in tatters. Yet still he gambled, even selling Emma’s abandoned £6,500 diamond engagement ring for just £2,000.
When it came, intervention assumed an unlikely form. Two months after Emma had left, Justyn’s 70-year-old mother, Jennifer, arrived at his front door.
Warned by Emma that Justyn was facing eviction, she had driven from her home in Maidstone, Kent, to give him an ultimatum.
She said: “You can either come home, or you can stay here alone and end up homeless.”
So, 26 years after leaving home to join the Army, Justyn moved back in with his mum. He had nothing but a black bin liner of clothes and debts of £70,000 to his name.
Since then, he has been attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings, and is beginning to recover. He has installed software on his computer to block access to gambling websites, and says he isn’t tempted to gamble.

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