Baby Reindeer true story: The chilling real tale behind Richard Gadd's stalker drama

The Baby Reindeer true story is very intense and viewers might be wondering what really happened to the show's creator Richard Gadd

Richard Gadd as Donny in Netflix's Baby Reindeer
(Image credit: Ed Miller/Netflix)

The Baby Reindeer true story is every bit as heart-wrenching as the Netflix drama, which brings creator Richard Gadd’s real-life experiences to the fore.

Following in the wake of plenty of evocative true crime dramas in recent months and years, Netflix’s Baby Reindeer is a powerful portrait of stalking and trauma. The seven-part series stars creator Richard Gadd as Donny Dunn, a fictionalised version of himself, with Jessica Gunning as Martha, the woman who stalked him for so many years. Every bit as compelling as it is heart-wrenching, Baby Reindeer’s handling of such sensitive subjects has caught the attention of fans. Many of them might now be intrigued about the Baby Reindeer true story and here we reveal what really happened to Richard Gadd and how accurate the show is.

*Warning: This article contains spoilers and references to sensitive subject matters, including sexual violence*

Baby Reindeer true story explained: What happened to Richard Gadd? 

Baby Reindeer is based on the very real and equally chilling stalking ordeal that the show’s creator (and lead star, playing Donny Dunn) Richard Gadd experienced over a period of four and a half years. Although the comedian has never revealed who the real life Martha is, he has been incredibly open about what he went through during the time Martha stalked him. During this period he is said to have received over 41,000 emails, 744 tweets and 350 hours of voicemail messages, as well as a cuddly toy and other gifts.

As we saw in Baby Reindeer, it all began with one small gesture of kindness from Richard when he offered Martha a cup of tea on the house at the pub he worked at. Speaking to The Times for an interview published the day Baby Reindeer landed on Netflix, it was revealed that, at first people believed it was “funny” that he had such an ardent “admirer”.

“At first everyone at the pub thought it was funny that I had an admirer,” he said. “Then she started to invade my life, following me, turning up at my gigs, waiting outside my house, sending thousands of voicemails and emails.”

Richard Gadd as Donny, Jessica Gunning as Martha

(Image credit: Ed Miller/Netflix)

When the comedian had gone to report Martha’s stalking of him to the police, they reportedly found it hard to believe that he was being threatened by a woman. Reflecting on how men being stalked is often portrayed in the media, Richard suggested that it can be “trivialised”.

He said, “When a man gets stalked it can be portrayed in films and television as a sexy thing. Like a femme fatale who gradually becomes more sinister. It doesn’t carry as much threat of physical violence, is less common and can be trivialised.”

Richard declared that he was “physically scared” of Martha because he “didn’t know how far she could take it”, though he did “think how terrifying it would be if she was a tall scary man”. 

Jessica Gunning as Martha

(Image credit: Ed Miller/Netflix)

In the end he recorded all her messages and searched through them to find occasions where she was either threatening him or the people he loved - as viewers saw in Baby Reindeer. Getting candid with The Independent, Richard recently explained that whilst he has met “very good” members of the police force in his time, he also feels “let down” by others.

“I never want to lambast the police, because I think there is a national acknowledgement at the moment that the police is an institution which needs improvement,” he disclosed. “I have met very good policemen in my time. And, unfortunately, I’ve met some that I feel extraordinarily let down by.”

Richard Gadd as Donny in Baby Reindeer

(Image credit: Ed Miller/Netflix)

The Netflix drama shows the resolution of the fictional Donny’s stalking ordeal, with Martha receiving nine months in prison as well as a five-year restraining order effective from the day of her hearing. However, for those wondering if this mirrors the Baby Reindeer true story, it’s not known exactly how Richard’s real life situation came to an end. He told The Times that “it is resolved” and that he “had mixed feelings about it” as he didn’t want to “throw someone who was that level of mentally unwell in prison”.

How accurate is Baby Reindeer to the true story? 

In general, the Netflix show very closely tells the Baby Reindeer true story of Martha’s stalking which might not be surprising given that Richard Gadd created the drama. A few small differences include how the show gives a concrete explanation for what happened to Martha and when she is sentenced, it’s revealed that she had stalked Donny for just under three years. In real life it was four and a half and it's also not entirely clear whether the reason Baby Reindeer is called Baby Reindeer is true to life. However, it’s not just the story of Martha and Donny in Baby Reindeer that pretty accurately follows the events in the comedian’s life. The Netflix show also sees Donny dealing with immense trauma from his past. 

Richard Gadd as Donny in Baby Reindeer

(Image credit: Netflix)

In episode 4, the most harrowing of all the episodes, Donny is sexually assaulted by someone who claimed to be able and willing to help advance his comedy career. Richard Gadd has discussed his experience as a survivor of sexual violence in his 2016 stage show, Monkey See, Monkey Do, and revealed to why he felt including this in Baby Reindeer was significant.

“It's very important to show how much that had impacted me and how much it had impacted the Martha relationship,” he said. “The thing is, when Martha enters in episode 1, what I think the audience feel is, 'Why is he indulging her?' You're cringing and you wonder why he's doing it. But I think once you take the audience through episode 4 and you flashback and go through all those things, by the time Martha enters at the end of episode 4, you're like, 'Oh thank God, she's back.' You understand really why Donny did it.”

Richard Gadd as Donny

(Image credit: Ed Miller/Netflix)

He spoke about how a “lot of abuse happens in power dynamics, work dynamics, relationship dynamics, all those kinds of things” and how he “hadn't really seen the psychological complexity of it too often on television”. 

“Abuse survivors can feel just as much shame about the idea of feeling duped or the idea of feeling manipulated. One of the feelings that was left with me after everything was, 'God, I just feel so stupid’,” he shared. “I think being so honest, not just about the assault but how it got to that point, I hope will provide comfort for people who are maybe going through the same thing.”

Ultimately, both with this poignant storyline and the stalking plotline, the show seems to be quite faithful to the Baby Reindeer true story. Richard has described it as “pretty truthful” and that although he did change some things, he ensured that this remained the case.

Richard Gadd as Donny in Baby Reindeer

(Image credit: Ed Miller/Netflix)

“It’s pretty truthful. Any time it veered too much into embellishment I would always want to pull it back. It’s extremely emotionally truthful,” he told GQ. “Of course, this is a medium where structure is so important, you need to change things to protect people… but I like to think, artistically, that it never moved too far from the truth.”

Baby Reindeer is available to watch on Netflix now.

If you or someone you know finds themselves in need of support or someone to talk to in a safe space, they can reach out to Victim Support for free by calling their 24/7 Supportline 08 08 16 89 111 or by visiting their website. 

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!