When Niki Otterburn won £2.2 million on the National Lottery 12 years ago it changed her life – for the better. Catherine Scott finds out how the former fitness instructor is now following her dreams.
Seeing Niki Otterburn galloping around on her horse, Pippin, it is clear she is in her element. She spends virtually every minute of her days in the open air with Pippin and her three other horses and keeping on top of her seven acres.
However, just 12 years ago life was very different. She was living in a two-up two-down terraced house in Micklefield, Leeds and spending her days and many nights in the Virgin Active gym where she was the manager.
“I was happy,” says Niki, now 42. “I loved being a fitness instructor and had worked my way up to manager, but I just felt there was no real future in it for me.
“I grew up on a farm in Helmsley and we had horses and I’d ride them all the time. But then I had an accident and realised that I had to get a job in the real world and so I moved to Leeds and started working in the gym.”
Niki was in the gym when the National Lottery came on.
“Like most gyms we had a bank of television screens but with no sound on. I’d bought a lucky dip like I always did and when my numbers started to come up I really wasn’t sure whether it was the main lottery or one of the other draws they have.
“I thought at first ‘Oh good I’ve won a tenner’ but then as I got five numbers it started to get serious. My colleague asked me what I needed and I remember saying to him ‘I just need 42’ and then saw 42 come out of the chute. I didn’t really overreact as it didn’t really sink in.”
Niki was so laid back that she went home and put the lottery ticket under a plant pot until Monday when she went into the Morrisons’ store in Leeds where she’d bought the ticket.
“I didn’t even realise there was a number on the back you could ring. I went in to the supermarket and said ‘my numbers have come up’. The woman behind the counter gave me a quizzical look but when she put my ticket into the machine it made a funny noise and I was taken in to the office where they phoned Camelot and they confirmed that four people shared the jackpot of £8.8 million and I was one of them.”
Even if Niki had wanted to keep her win a secret, there’s no way she would have been able to.
“There were about 8,000 members of our gym at the time and it didn’t take long before all of them knew.”
“I wanted to be transparent. There are still different rumours about how much I actually won flying around. I can’t really see how anyone can keep it a secret.”
Unlike many people who suddenly become millionaires, Niki didn’t immediately hand in her notice to her employers.
“I worked for about a year after the win,” she explains.
“I did gradually reduce my hours down though. But the main thing I tried really hard not to do was to go on about my win. I didn’t want to make other people feel bad because I had been so lucky.”
She did sell her two-up two-down and moved into a big new house in Meanwood, Leeds and also treated herself to a BMW five series.
But Niki was very conscious that as quickly as she became a millionaire she coud lose it.
“I am quite tight,” she admits. “I come from a farming family and I was very aware that I wanted the money to last for the rest of my life. I wanted security for the future and that’s what the win has given me.”
Mainly, it meant for Niki that she could start to pursue her dream of becoming a full-time horsewoman.
“I have always loved horses but once I was working in Leeds I hardly ever got the chance. As soon as I got the money I started to look for a place where I could stable horses and build an arena.”
Niki eventually found the place she was looking for on the top of Sutton Bank in North Yorkshire.
“I didn’t want a mansion or anything,” says the frugal Yorkshirewoman.
“The cottage is really quite small but it had seven acres and outbuildings.” Niki also bought her beloved Pippin.
“He wasn’t expensive or anything,” she says. “You can pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for some horses and he wasn’t anything like that.”
After buying her dream property Niki decided to give up her ‘day job’ at Virgin Active as the commute was too much.
Now she has two horses which she rides and two ponies for children to ride.
She has invested her winnings with advice from the National Lottery and now pays herself £30,000 a year.
“It makes me budget and feel like anyone else who has to earn a living. I think I have invested well but I am always aware that it wouldn’t take much to lose it and so I am careful. I’m not into jewellery or clothes. In fact if you saw me the street you wouldn’t know I had any money at all. What it has given me is security and the ability to live my dream. I know I am very lucky indeed.”
She is single, although remains friends with Sam, her boyfriend at the time she won the Lottery.
She says there has been no downside to her win.
“My family were amazing. My mum said ‘you bought the ticket, it is your money’.”
Niki now spends her days looking after her horses and land and persuing her three-day-eventing passion on Pippin.
“Taking part in eventing competitions is really all I ever wanted to do, but I never thought in a million years I would be able to do it,” says Niki, who admits that she still buys a lucky dip twice a week.
“I wasn’t particularly a lucky person before I won the Lottery which shows it can happen to anyone. However since winning the £2.2m I haven’t won so much as a tenner. But I can’t complain. I have been extremely lucky. “
Making millionaires since 1994
Camelot has been the operator of The National Lottery since 1994. The first ever Lotto Draw took place live at the BBC studios in London on November 19, 1994.
Today, The National Lottery creates over six million winners a week across its portfolio of draw-based and instant play games – and in 2012, made an average of 30 millionaires every month.
A total of 3,400 millionaires or multi-millionaires have now been created since launch and more than 12,000 people have enjoyed a share of a Lotto jackpot prize.
Over £49 billion has been given away as prize money. The highest number of winners to scoop the Lotto jackpot from one draw was 133 in January 1995. They each won £122,510.
Each week, Camelot generates over £35 million for National Lottery Good Causes.
To date, National Lottery players have raised over £30 billion for the good causes, with more than 400,000 individual awards made across the UK – that’s an average of 128 lottery grants for every postcode district.