‘Forced out of my job for be­ing blown up’

Ter­ror sur­vivor’s claim against her law firm

Daily Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - BY BEN ROSSINGTON

A MANCH­ESTER bomb vic­tim left paral­ysed by the ter­ror blast claims she has lost her job for be­ing off sick.

Dis­traught Julie Thomas, 34, quit af­ter a so­lic­i­tors’ firm warned she could be made re­dun­dant.

She said: “They made me feel like a vic­tim again. It’s de­grad­ing.”

LY­ING in hos­pi­tal paral­ysed by a bomb blast and with shrap­nel em­bed­ded in her pain-racked body was a trau­matic enough ex­pe­ri­ence for Julie Thomas.

But the 34-year-old was dealt an­other cruel blow just two days af­ter be­ing blown up in May at the Manch­ester Arena when her bosses asked if she knew when she would be back at work.

And ear­lier this month, on the very day doc­tors told con­veyanc­ing ex­ec­u­tive Julie she may never walk again be­cause of her in­juries, Dick­in­son Parker Hill so­lic­i­tors said her job was be­ing made re­dun­dant – de­spite her be­ing signed off sick un­til Oc­to­ber.

Julie, who is now con­fined to a wheel­chair and still re­lives the hor­ror of May’s Manch­ester at­tack that killed 22 and left up to 250 in­jured, said: “I was in tears.

“It was the trauma of what the doc­tor said along with this mes­sage, which was ef­fec­tively sack­ing me. None of this was my fault. I just went to a con­cert with a friend to en­joy my­self.”

Julie, who had three op­er­a­tions to re­move bolts and shrap­nel, said she felt she had no choice but to re­sign and left this month. She is bring­ing a con­struc­tive dis­missal and dis­crim­i­na­tion case against the firm for “un­rea­son­able bul­ly­ing and ha­rass­ment”.

Af­ter the at­tack as she lay dis­ori­en­tated in Manch­ester Royal In­fir­mary, Julie at first re­ceived sym­pa­thetic text mes­sages and emails from her of­fice, but also ask­ing when she would re­turn.

Nine days af­ter twisted Sal­man Abedi blew up his sui­cide bomb out­side the Ari­ana Grande con­cert, bosses were tex­ting to ask if she could talk about work. She had just had her third op­er­a­tion. Julie said the fi­nal straw came ear­lier this month when she was told “ef­fec­tively your po­si­tion has been made re­dun­dant”, with an of­fer to pay up her four weeks’ no­tice.

In the let­ter dated Septem­ber 6, seen by the Mir­ror, she was told her po­si­tion could not be kept open “into the long term” and that, in the firm’s be­lief and in ac­cor­dance with its pol­icy, six months was suf­fi­cient sick leave.

Julie, of Liver­pool, was also told if she did come back, their build­ing in Orm­skirk, Lancs, would cause prob­lems for her, leav­ing her with the op­tion of a down­stairs of­fice “and a ket­tle”. She said the near­est dis­abled toi­let is in a nearby pub. Julie told how she felt she had been “hounded” by the com­pany. She added: “It has built up since I was ly­ing in hos­pi­tal. The text mes­sages, the let­ters, know­ing the state I was in. “‘Where’s the sick note? Can you talk about a file? When are you com­ing back to work? Can you do an on­line course?’ “I gave them my all, I loved work­ing there, and they have treated me like a num­ber rather a per­son. I’m not

Julie didn’t have the flu, she was in a ter­ror at­tack. There is no com­pas­sion RON­NIE CUN­NING­HAM TRADE UNION OF­FI­CIAL HELP­ING JULIE

earn­ing for them so I am out. The sym­pa­thy all seems so disin­gen­u­ous.

“I want to work, but not there, not ever again. They’ve made me feel like a vic­tim again which is some­thing I don’t want to feel.

“It is hu­mil­i­at­ing and de­grad­ing. I felt I had no choice.” And she told how the mes­sages made her “feel guilty about tak­ing time off work” de­spite the hor­rific or­deal she had suf­fered. She said they added to the “stress and pres­sure” of her al­ready dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion.

Trade union of­fi­cial Ron­nie Cun­ning­ham is help­ing Julie with her case. He said: “There seems to have been no com­pas­sion or real sym­pa­thy. The com­pany talks about their sick pol­icy but no pol­icy in the world is writ­ten for some­thing this. Julie didn’t have the flu, she was in a ma­jor ter­ror­ist at­tack and thank­fully sur­vived. We will say she was sacked and that will be for the tri­bunal to de­cide.”

Julie’s sis­ter Carla, a Labour coun­cil­lor and dis­abil­ity cam­paigner, de­scribed Julie’s sit­u­a­tion as a “tragedy for me”.

She added: “You are treated dif­fer­ently when you have a dis­abil­ity. Em­ploy­ers look at you in a dif­fer­ent light. Julie now has to break down bar­ri­ers put in her way by some­thing that wasn’t her fault.”

Sit­ting down with the Mir­ror was Julie’s first time out of the house for four months that was not for a doc­tor’s ap­point­ment.

Medics ex­pected her to have some feel­ing in her leg by now but she has none. She gave her­self third de­gree burns by stray­ing too close to an open oven door in her kitchen for too long but didn’t even re­alise.

And Julie, who sleeps just three hours a night be­cause of the trauma, claims the firm made re­peated re­quests to come and see her at home.

She added: “At this point I’m at home in a wheel­chair on my own for the first time, ter­ri­fied of what the fu­ture might hold, try­ing to adapt. I’ve got nurses com­ing three times a week to treat the wounds that won’t close. “I can’t get up the stairs to go to my bed, I can’t make a cup of tea. “And I’ve got my mum and my sis­ter wash­ing me in my kitchen sink as if I was a child.

“I didn’t want to talk to any­one. I didn’t want any­one com­ing into my sanc­tu­ary.”

Dick­in­son Parker Hill, de­clined to com­ment last night but it is un­der­stood they do not ac­cept Ju­lia’s claims, hav­ing of­fered her a con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod.

De­spite her paral­y­sis, Julie is de­fi­antly work­ing to­wards her goal of hope­fully one day walk­ing again.

She was caught up in the Manch­ester Arena blast when she left the gig with a friend and her daugh­ter.

Julie even spot­ted 22-year-old Bri­tish ji­hadi Abedi be­fore he det­o­nated his bomb as around 14,200 filed out of the au­di­to­rium af­ter Grande’s per­for­mance.

The bolts and shrap­nel that flew into her body avoided any ma­jor or­gans.

TRAUMA Julie in hos­pi­tal af­ter be­ing paral­ysed

HOR­ROR Po­lice on night of con­cert blast

TRAGEDY In wheel­chair

Arena blast. Right, our re­port So­lic­i­tors where vic­tim worked HOR­ROR OF­FICE

TWISTED Ter­ror­ist Abedi

Julie was left paral­ysed by bomb Julie pic­tured in her wheel­chair Dam­aged leg. Inset, stitches HOS­PI­TAL STRUG­GLE IN­JURIES

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