An OAP’s life was saved by betting shop staff who found him collapsed at home when he failed to turn up to make his daily £1 bets – for the first time in 13 years.
For more than a decade Michael Base, 72, turned up twice-daily without fail to his local Betfred store to place a £1 wager on the football, horse races and lottery.
But when the eccentric punter – nicknamed ‘Popeye’ by staff – failed to show up for a couple of days, concerned staff turned detectives to track him down.
Deputy manager Jamie Scales and colleague Jack Bell checked through betting slips for Mr Base’s distinctive hand-writing to establish when he last turned up.
The pair then knocked on doors in Diss, Norfolk , asking residents if they knew where the OAP – who regularly carried a distinctive tartan bag – lived.
When they found the correct address, they peeked through the letterbox and spotted the bag in a hallway before calling the police when they got no response.;
Mr Base, who spent a month in intensive care after he was found in a diabetic coma, said: “I don’t think Jamie and Jack saved my life – I know they did.
“I don’t really know how I ended up on the floor in a coma at home but it was obviously to do with my diabetes.
“I was only a few yards from my tablets but couldn’t reach them .
“I miss going to Betfred where I’ve had some good winners over the years including £350 on the horses once.”
Jamie, 33, said: “He’s a real character – everyone knows him.
“He only ever puts on a £1 bet on although once he did put £2 on and we remember that because it was so unusual.
“I knew something wrong when I saw that tartan bag because he’s never seen without it.
“He had a brother who was in the navy and that’s the only family anyone knows about.
“He sometimes struggled with officialdom so we helped him with bills and letters he’d received.
“He knows his horses and football and has won a fair amount over the years, even though his bets are small.”
Jamie eventually knocked on the door of retired carer and Mr Base’s friend Glen Bingley who said the childless punter who never married had not been seen by anyone.
He got no answer when he knocked on Mr Base’s door but called police immediately when he spotted his distinctive tartan bag through a hallway window.
Officers broke into Michael’s semi-detached home and found him slumped on the floor where he’d been for at least four days.
“I left the police to sort things out and they rang me later to say ‘really well done, he was on his last breath’. I’m just so happy he’s all right and that I got there on time.
“Jack and I work different shifts and we had to check with everyone who knew Michael including customers before we went into the company’s systems to ensure no other staff member had taken a bet from Michael while they weren’t there.”
Mr Base’s neighbour Glen said: “He’d have died had it not been for the Betfred fella going round.”
He was kept on a drip whilst being cared for in the Intensive Care Unit at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for a month.
Mr Base spent time in a respite unit and is now being cared for in the Culrose House residential home in Dickleburgh, Norfolk, where his bookie pals Jamie and Jack have visited him.
They passed on best wishes from customers who have been missing the “mischievous ” punter who once gifted staff and customers out-of-date croissants from a bin, laughing as he told them the wrapper was still on.
Mr Base, who worked at the Grampian chicken factory for 44 years, always went to his betting shop when the best bets were on at midday and 5pm.
Jack added: “He knows his different types of bets and is aware of when you can get the best odds. His favourites are football accumulators. He always has a smile for us and the customers who would love to see him back in here enjoying himself.”
Hans Daugaard-Hansen, operations director at Culrose House care home, said: “Michael is a very lucky man. He’s a mischievous and bright fella who is lucky to be alive . He certainly loves his racing.”
Betfred boss Fred Done said: “Jamie and Jack clearly went the extra mile to help a regular customer. They did brilliantly and are a credit to the company.
“I am delighted Michael is on the mend and hopefully we’ll see him back in the shop where he clearly enjoys his daily flutter.”donned a tartan bag.”