Family from N.L. joins woman allegedly bound, gagged at work as tribunal hears case

A lot of people have come forward with support, but others accuse her of seeking money, says sister-in-law.

DeeAnn Fitzpatrick contacted organization to help her take own life, sister-in-law says

DeeAnn Fitzpatrick, a fisheries officer, says she was subjected to a decade of workplace abuse, including being bound and gagged in an office chair. This photo was taken eight years ago by a man accused of the abuse. (Provided by BBC Scotland)

The family of a Newfoundland woman who made headlines because of a photo of her apparently bound and gagged at work has joined her in Scotland as an employment tribunal looks into the case.

They say DeeAnn Fitzpatrick is so stressed by the alleged workplace harassment and subsequent attention, she considered taking her own life.

"We said that we had to come and we had to get this stopped," Fitzpatrick's sister-in-law told CBC's St. John's Morning Show on Thursday.

Sherry Fitzpatrick, who lives on Bell Island, flew to Scotland this week for the tribunal hearing.

"Since I've been here, she said it's probably the best thing that's ever happened, knowing that a part of her family is here."

DeeAnn Fitzpatrick's story is familiar to many by a photo that shows her taped to a chair and gagged, allegedly because she spoke out about being bullied.

Money has never been an object for this and she said she just wants it to stop.- Sherry Fitzpatrick

That 2010 incident was part of what Fitzpatrick told the BBC was a decade-long pattern of bullying and abuse she experienced when she worked as a fisheries officer at Marine Scotland's Scrabster office on Scotland's north coast.

Fitzpatrick told the tribunal that she was so distressed by the harassment that she contacted Dignitas, a Swiss non-profit that provides assisted suicide to terminally ill people, and people with severe mental or physical illness.

Not about the money

After going public with the story by speaking with BBC Scotland in May, her family published a video as part of a #LetDeeAnnSpeak campaign.

Sherry Fitzpatrick said her sister-in-law has heard from people in the community who want to offer her support.

But not everyone has believed her story.

"DeeAnn has said people come to her saying she's only looking for a payout, she's only looking for money," Fitzpatrick said.

"Money has never been an object for this and she said she just wants it to stop. And if she can pave the way for other women coming up in the workplace to try to stop this type of abuse, then this is what her main goal is for this hearing and coming out public with her story."

The photo of her bound to a chair is not being used as evidence in this tribunal, Fitzpatrick said, because a preliminary tribunal determined that it was too old, having been taken eight years ago.

Cards sent to DeeAnn Fitzpatrick on Valentine's Day and her birthday that she characterized as threatening, calling her "an old troll," and refer to her as having male genitalia, Sherry Fitzpatrick said, will be used as evidence and were discussed this week.

"One of the things that they did mention in the tribunal is that they actually alleged DeeAnn wrote the cards to herself," her sister-in-law said.

"Really? Is this the only thing that you have to say? That you think she did this herself? It's just been ridiculous what the other side is claiming."

Fitzpatrick said she's heard from Scottish government ministers who were concerned when they heard that DeeAnn had contacted Dignitas, and she will meet with them this week to discuss the matter before returning to Newfoundland on Saturday.

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With files from the St. John's Morning Show