In 2017, soon after he was laid off from his job at a manufacturing plant in Toronto, Michael Gebru won a Canadian $10 million lottery jackpot—around $8 million US—after initially thinking he had won just $14. He was dead less than two years later. Relatives tell the CBC that the 41-year-old died Saturday in mysterious circumstances in Ethiopia, the homeland he wanted to help after winning the jackpot. “Going back home, he just wanted to do more for our country,” cousin Sosuna Asefaw says. She says Gebru, who had been splitting his time between Toronto and Ethiopia, flew to the country around two weeks ago and had been visiting the area where he grew up.
After the win in 2017, Gebru told reporters that his biggest priority was helping people in need. “I don’t know exactly what happened,” Asefaw says. “Everyone knew who he was in Toronto and everyone knew back home, because it’s a big thing … He didn’t grow up with much.” At a funeral service Sunday, relatives said they feared Gebru, who donated generously to several churches after the win, had been targeted for his money. According to local media in Ethiopia, Gebru was killed in a robbery gone wrong but no arrests have been made, the Toronto Sun reports. Relatives say they have received little information from police and they have appealed to Canada’s embassy in Ethiopia for assistance. (Read more Ethiopia stories.)