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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Woman claiming to be real-life inspiration for Martha on hit show ‘Baby Reindeer’ sues Netflix

Fiona Harvey is a Scottish lawyer living in London — just like the stalker Martha on the show. But she says she never stalked or attacked Richard Gadd, and that she's never been convicted of a crime.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A Scottish woman claiming to be the real-life inspiration for the disturbed stalker Martha on Netflix's hit show "Baby Reindeer" sued the streaming service on Thursday for defamation and gross negligence, seeking monetary damages of at least $170 million.

The seven-episode "Baby Reindeer," starring and written by Richard Gadd — who based the series on his 70-minute monologue of the same name — was based on Gadd's own experiences.

Both shows told the story of how Gadd, an aspiring stand-up comedian from Scotland, was sexually assaulted by a successful TV writer, and then stalked, for years, by a Scottish woman — Martha.

Gadd has claimed that the real-life Martha sent him more than 41,000 emails and left him 350 hours of voice mails over the course of a few years. In the show, Martha is a convicted felon and compulsive liar; Gadd's character, meanwhile, becomes strangely dependent on Martha's fixation on him.

The show has become a breakout hit for Netflix, having been watched at least in part more than 50 million times in less than a month, putting it on course to become one of Netflix's 10 most-viewed TV shows of all time, alongside the likes of "Stranger Things" and "Wednesday."

In her federal complaint, Fiona Harvey calls "Baby Reindeer" the "biggest lie in television history," told "out of greed and lust for fame... 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."

She adds: "As a result of defendants’ lies, malfeasance and utterly reckless misconduct, Harvey’s life had been ruined."

Gadd, who could not be reached for comment, has claimed to have changed certain details about both Martha and the TV writer who sexually assaulted him.

"We’ve gone to such great lengths to disguise her to the point that I don’t think she would recognise herself," Gadd told GQ magazine. "What’s been borrowed is an emotional truth, not a fact-by-fact profile of someone."

That didn't stop fans from speculating about the real Martha online, and it wasn't long before they settled on Harvey as the likely candidate — in part because of a tweet from her real Twitter account, a reply to Gadd which reads, "my curtains need hung badly," a veiled sexual comment referenced on the show.

Last month, Harvey appeared on Piers Morgan's YouTube talk show, "Piers Morgan Uncensored" and admitted that she met Gadd and shared some exchanges with him, though she denied stalking and writing him 41,000 emails.

“It’s a work of fiction ,” Harvey told Morgan. She later said: "Even if the email thing was true, the rest is not.”

But, says Harvey, the similarities between herself and Martha are unmistakable.

Left: Jessica Gunning as Martha; Right: Fiona Harvey (screenshot via federal lawsuit)

"Like 'Martha, Harvey is a Scottish lawyer, living in London, twenty years older than Gadd, was accused of stalking a lawyer in a newspaper article and who bears an uncanny resemblance to ‘Martha,'" Harvey says in her complaint. "Further, ‘Martha’s’ accent, manner of speaking and cadence, is indistinguishable for Harvey’s."

However, Harvey adds, she has "never been convicted of any crime and has never been to prison" — unlike the character Martha, who had been convicted of stalking and served a four-and-a-half year prison sentence before she meets Gadd's character, Donny.

Harvey also denies ever having stalked Gadd, ever having waited at a bus stop outside Gadd's residence for 15 hours a day, as Martha does in the show, and ever having physically attacked Gadd, as Martha does in the show.

Gadd is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Instead, Harvey targets Netflix, a publicly traded company, which she says failed to do any due diligence before claiming the show was based on a true story.

Harvey says that she has become inundated with messages from strangers accusing her of being a stalker.

"As a direct result of Baby Reindeer, Harvey has become extremely secluded and isolated, in fear of the public, going days without leaving her home," she says in her complaint.

Harvey's lawsuit comes days after Netflix reached a settlement with Linda Fairstein, a former New York City prosecutor who was depicted in a 2019 Netflix miniseries, "When They See Us," based on the 1989 Central Park jogger case, in which five black and Latino teenagers were falsely accused of rape and prosecuted.

Days before Fairstein's suit was scheduled to go to trial, she and Netflix reached a deal — Netflix agreed to donate $1 million to The Innocence Project, and agreed to add a disclaimer to the beginning of each episode, reading: "While the motion picture is inspired by actual events and persons, certain characters, incidents, locations, dialogue, and names are fictionalized for the purposes of dramatization.” Fairstein herself received no compensation.

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