‘Forced out of my job for being blown up’
Terror survivor’s claim against her law firm
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.
Arena blast. Right, our report Solicitors where victim worked HORROR OFFICE
TWISTED Terrorist Abedi
TRAUMA Julie in hospital after being paralysed
HORROR Police on night of concert blast
TRAGEDY In wheelchair
Julie was left paralysed by bomb Julie pictured in her wheelchair Damaged leg. Inset, stitches HOSPITAL STRUGGLE INJURIES