Martha in Netflix's Baby Reindeer

Is Donny’s Stalker Based on a Real Person? The Biggest ‘Baby Reindeer’ Question, Answered

The Netflix series details the traumatic experience of Richard Gadd's character, Donny.

There’s a harrowing new drama series available to stream on Netflix, and it’s as unsettling as it is endlessly binge-worthy—especially because of the fact that it’s based on a true story. So who served as the real-life inspiration for Donny Dunn’s (Richard Gadd) stalker in Baby Reindeer?

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Netflix is no stranger to putting out provocative content, but its latest miniseries, Baby Reindeer, might just be its most disturbing yet. Created by and starring Richard Gadd, the show follows Donny Dunn, a comedian who finds himself being stalked by a seemingly mild-mannered woman named Martha (Jessica Gunning) after a brief act of kindness makes him the sole object of her affection—and obsession.

Throughout its eight episodes, Baby Reindeer details the traumatic experience of dealing with a long term stalker and how life-inhibiting it can be to feel like you always have eyes watching your every move.

Wildly enough, Baby Reindeer is loosely inspired by Gadd’s real-life experience of being stalked, as he was sent over 41,000 emails, 350 hours’ worth of voicemail messages, 744 tweets, and 106 pages of letters from an unidentified woman for nearly five years, per The Guardian. But is “Martha” actually “Martha” in the Netflix show?

Who is the IRL Martha from Baby Reindeer?

Speaking with The Times while promoting his new drama-thriller series, Gadd explained how exactly the situation with his stalker began and why the ensuing events transpired the way they did. The Scottish comedian, who was working at a pub at the time, unknowingly offered the woman who would become his stalker a free cup of tea after she admitted she couldn’t afford to pay for a drink.

Although things started innocently enough, his real-life “Martha” started to “invade [his] life” outside of work. Eventually, the stalking reached such extremes that Gadd was “physically scared” and sought help from local police, who, disappointingly enough, found the whole fiasco hard to believe.

“When a man gets stalked it can be portrayed in films and television as a sexy thing,” Gadd wisely noted. “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.”

There’s no denying that the “stalking for love” trope has been somewhat romanticized in the media (as in Netflix’s You), and sadly, such instances seem to be taken less seriously when women are the ones committing the crime in real life. “I did think how terrifying it would be if she was a tall scary man,” Gadd added.

Richard Gadd sitting on a bus in Baby Reindeer
(Netflix)

Still, Gadd has never publicly revealed who his IRL stalker was, and today, he considers the issue to be “resolved.” In the same Times interview, the actor stated that he has “mixed feelings” about his “Martha,” as he “didn’t want to throw someone who was that level of mentally unwell in prison.”

Expressing a frankly shocking amount of empathy towards his abuser, Gadd said, “When I was getting stalked … I saw someone who was unwell, needed help, was quite vulnerable. Stalking is a mental illness and it comes from a sort of fantasy addiction of some kind, this idea that this person is the answer to all your problems, so you’ll hear only what you want to hear, disregard the rest.”

So, there it is. We may never know the identity of Gadd’s longtime stalker, and her identity could very well remain a secret forever. In this case, we can only look to the Netflix show for answers. Viewers know that the Baby Reindeer finale ends after a threatening voicemail lands Martha behind bars, and she ultimately pleads guilty to three counts of stalking and harassment.

From the sounds of it, things weren’t resolved so simply in real life. But regardless, Gadd seems to view this whole experience as a mental health crisis, and explained that in spite of everything that happened, he still wants her to have the “help” she so clearly needs. Unsatisfying as it may be, we have no clue where “Martha” ended up, and her true identity remains a mystery—but perhaps that’s for the best.

All episodes of Baby Reindeer are now available to stream on Netflix.

(featured image: Netflix)


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Amanda Landwehr
Amanda is a Los Angeles-based entertainment writer who lives and breathes Star Wars, Marvel, and all things pop culture. She has worked in digital media since 2021, covering the latest movie/TV releases, casting updates, fan theories, and so, so much more. When she's not rotting away behind her laptop screen, you can typically catch Amanda maxing out her AMC Stubs membership.