A pensioner who has been missing for two years may have disappeared after winning the National Lottery.

Walter Bellman, 82, was last seen at his flat in Wellington Road, Brighton, in January 1998 and relatives told the Argus last week they feared he had died.

But the mystery surrounding his disappearance deepened this week after police discovered the life-long bachelor had spent more than £1,000 on lottery tickets in the month before he went missing

Envelopes found on the window sill of Mr Bellman's flat revealed the retired customs officer had perfected an extremely complicated lottery system made up of dozens of number sequences. Hundreds of lottery tickets were also found, showing Mr Bellman - also known as Wally or Walt - had spent £1,100 on the lottery in a matter of weeks.

Police are now investigating the possibility the pensioner, described as a "loner" with few friends, may have vanished after winning a large sum of money. Sgt Bill Whitehead, of Brighton police, said: "It's possible he won the jackpot and said 'I'm going off to see the world and have a good time and will only come back to live as a frugal pensioner when I run out of money'."

Camelot has so far refused to reveal whether Mr Bellman is one of their anonymous millionaires, although police are putting in a written request for information. Although food was found rotting in the fridge the rest of his flat was left spotless with dust sheets covering the furniture, indicating Mr Bellman had prepared for his departure.

His bank accounts have been left untouched for the last two years, although bills are continuing to be paid via standing orders and his civil service pension is still being paid into his account.

Nephew Alan Bellman, 53, of Sevenoaks, Kent, said: "It's a total mystery, but I do think it's out of character that he would have disappeared like that. I'm worried about the state of his health."

The last time Mr Bellman was seen was when police went round to the flat in January 1998 to inform him his brother Fred had died. He appeared to be in a confused state and never attended the funeral or got in touch with relatives again.

There was a further development following an alleged sighting of a man fitting Mr Bellman's description in a chip shop in Blatchington Road, Hove, at the end of last week. The man, who had a lot of white hair, claimed to be 82-years-old and living in Wellington Road.

Sgt Whitehead added: "The most important thing is that we trace him so we can put relatives' minds at rest."

Walter Bellman, is white, 5ft 7in and of thin build. He has short grey hair and usually wore smart clothes such as slacks with a shirt and tie.

Anyone who can help should call Sgt Whitehead at Brighton police on 0845 6070999.

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