Baby Reindeer’s Real-Life Martha Sues Netflix For £132 Million

Fiona Harvey claims that her life has been ruined by the show’s ‘brutal lies’

Jessica Gunning as Martha

by Shereen Low |
Updated on

In the latest Baby Reindeer twist, the real-life 'Martha' is suing Netflix. Fiona Harvey, who has identified herself as the person on whom Jessica Gunning’s character in Richard Gadd’s drama is based, has filed a lawsuit in a California court against the streaming platform. The Scottish law graduate is seeking $170 million (£132 million) in damages for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and violations of her right to publicity.

Fiona, 58, alleged that the Netflix series told ‘brutal lies’ about her and that she was falsely depicted as a convicted criminal who spent time in prison for stalking.

‘The lies that Defendants told about Harvey to over 50 million people worldwide include that Harvey is a twice-convicted stalker who was sentenced to five years in prison and that Harvey sexually assaulted Gadd,’ her complaint said. ‘Defendants told these lies and never stopped, because it was a better story than the truth, and better stories made money.’ The lawsuit added, ‘As a result of Defendants’ lies, malfeasance and utterly reckless misconduct, Harvey’s life had been ruined. Simply, Netflix and Gadd destroyed her reputation, her character and her life.’

Real-life-Martha-Baby-Reindeer-Piers-Morgan ©Netflix

Netflix vowed to ‘defend this matter vigorously and to stand by Richard Gadd’s right to tell his story’. Richard is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Despite Baby Reindeer – which is based on Richard’s one-man Edinburgh Festival play – claiming to be ‘a true story’, Fiona alleges otherwise. ‘This is the biggest lie in television history,’ her complaint continued. ‘It is a lie told by Netflix and the show’s creator Richard Gadd out of greed and lust for fame: a lie designed to attract more viewers, get more attention, to make more money and to viciously destroy the life of Plaintiff Fiona Harvey – an innocent woman defamed by Netflix and Richard Gadd at a magnitude and scale without precedent.’

Richard Gadd
Richard Gadd ©Netflix

In Baby Reindeer, which quickly became one of their top shows after its debut on Netflix worldwide on 11 April, Richard plays Donny Dunn, a fictionalised version of himself. The barman and aspiring comedian becomes a target for stalker Martha who sends him thousands of emails and voicemails and harasses his girlfriend and family.

Despite Richard saying that he changed details so as not to identify the real Martha, Reddit and TikTok users soon found Fiona. ‘The identification of Harvey as ‘Martha’ was easy and took a matter of days as Harvey’s identity was completely undisguised,’ the lawsuit said. This led to her receiving death threats and left her ‘fearful of leaving her home or checking the news’.

Fiona Harvey Piers Morgan interview
Fiona Harvey Piers Morgan interview ©Instagram/piersmorgan

While she confirmed that she knew Richard when he worked at a pub in London, Fiona denied sending Richard 41,000 emails and 350 hours of voicemail messages – as portrayed on the show – when she was interviewed by Piers Morgan last month. She said that the series is ‘a work of hyperbole’, adding, ‘None of that’s true. I think there may have been a couple of emails exchanged, but that was it. Just jokey banter emails.’

Fiona is optimistic that she will win this lawsuit. ‘Otherwise, we wouldn’t be doing it,’ she told the BBC.

Grazia has approached Netflix for a comment.

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