AN EAST Lancashire couple yesterday told of their 'shock and disbelief' after scooping £3.5million on the lottery.

Geoff and Hilary Bennette’s numbers came up on Saturday thanks to lucky dip ticket.

Friends said it ‘couldn’t have happened to a nicer couple’.

Geoff, 61, and Hilary, 54, are well-known in Rishton for their community work support of the local school and church.

The win hasn’t sunk in yet, but the couple are planning to jet off around the world, and possibly buy a cottage in a ‘nice little market town near the sea’.

However, the first purchase will be a new Mini Cooper - an updated version of Geoff’s first car when he was 17.

Hilary said: “We are so happy. It is just unbelievable."

Geoff, who has been a school governor at Rishton Methodist Primary School for more than 20 years, had only just retired from his job in leisure and tourism at Bolton Council.

Hilary who works as a teacher in a local nursery school - which she declined to name - has decided to continue working.

She said: “I still remain very committed to my job and to the children and I felt it was important to try and keep everything as normal as possible.

"I didn't tell anyone at work and it felt strange knowing that we had won millions but keeping it to ourselves.”

Geoff, a committed member of Rishton Methodist Church, is also a regular at cycle events.

On the day he found out about his win he had to commentate at the Horwich Festival of Racing.

“I had already promised to help out at the festival and I didn’t want to let them down so we just told immediate family the news and I went along to the event as planned”, he said.

“I didn’t say anything to anyone but it was very strange giving race commentary over the microphone as if everything was normal but deep down knowing we’d won £3.5 million."

Geoff kept the news to himself throughout the event but, on returning home, he and Hilary celebrated with a bottle of champagne before calling Camelot first thing on Monday morning.

Geoff had been doing the weekly shop at the new Tesco in Accrington when he bought the winning ticket.

And he discovered their good fortune when he checked the ticket for the Lotto rollover jackpot on Teletext at 8am on Sunday.

He said: “I saw all of our six numbers on the screen and just stared at them in amazement.

"I ran upstairs and woke Hilary up and got her to double check the numbers and they were the same.

"We just sat down in shock and stared at the TV and then each other for ages.

"It still hasn't really sunk in and we're not sure what we are going to do with it all.

"But one thing that is certain is that we would like to travel the world."

The first stop for the globe-trotting couple will be Australia followed by New Zealand, Canada and the USA.

"We are keen to get out there and enjoy ourselves having plenty of new experiences along the way," added Geoff.

Geoff, who volunteered at the Commonwealth Games in 2002, has applied to be a London 2012 volunteer and also plans to spend more time attending and helping out at sporting events across the UK.

Talking about his first purchase, Geoff said: "It will have to be a mini.

"I used to have one when I was 17 and it was great. I can't wait to get behind the wheel of a new one."

Paul Whaling, headteacher at Rishton Methodist primary School, said Geoff had made an 'outstanding' contribution to the school.

He said: “He has always shown 100 per cent commitment to both the local church and our school and we couldn't have asked for a better chair of governors.

"We are all very pleased that for him and Hilary. It is fantastic news.”

The Rev Pat Browne, minister at Rishton Methodist Church, said: “Geoff is an amazing guy and he is totally community minded.

"He works like mad for the school and to support the pupils.

"This couldn't have happened to a nicer couple who have devoted their lives to the local community.”