IT was the #metoo image that gripped the world.

Early last year a picture of DeeAnn Fitzpatrick gagged and taped to a chair exploded on to screens and newspapers from China to Chile, from Manhattan to Mumbai.

The snapshot somehow distilled the spirit of the time, the perfect illustration of so many stories by so many women about how they were treated by men.

The Scottish Government fisheries officer, after all, said the photograph showed her being punished for speaking out against male bullies over racism and misogyny.

New evidence, however, suggests the image of Fitzpatrick did not show what people first assumed.

In fact, Fitzpatrick, The Herald on Sunday can reveal, is now facing a disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct, an offence which can lead to dismissal. The 50-year-old is charged with making "false statements" about what has become known as "the chair incident" and about her colleagues.

This newspaper has obtained copies of detailed official investigations carried out in to various parties involved in the incident, including Fitzpatrick.

The reports exonerate the men Fitzpatrick effectively accused of assault and abduction.

They also challenge Fitzpatrick's core claim: that she was tied up because she made protected whistleblowing disclosures about what she termed a threatening and misogynistic culture at her employers, the Scottish Government's fisheries watchdog, Marine Scotland.

Specifically, Fitzpatrick claimed that she had been first restrained, and them bound and gagged by colleagues in December 2010 after "blowing the whistle" about an incident in September of that year.

However, investigators have concluded that the picture was not taken when Fitzpatrick said it was. Instead, electronic data embedded in the image confirms it was taken more than a year earlier, in August 2009, during what colleagues describe as typical "high jinks" at the Scrabster office.

Crucially, this was before, not after, Fitzpatrick "blew the whistle" by saying she had seen a male colleague try to throw a punch at a female one in September 2010.

Witnesses interviewed by investigators said there was a culture of pranks in the office.

One was to wrap in sticky tape staff who fell asleep during night or late shifts. Fitzpatrick is described as a "willing participant" in these practical jokes, including in being taped up.

The Canadian-born fisheries officer, who lives in Caithness, is understood to be standing by her original version of events. Family members last year accused the Scottish Government of a "cover-up".

There has been substantial political interest. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was "absolutely horrified" by the picture when she saw it. Fitzpatrick first spoke about "the chair incident" during an employment tribunal in late 2017, a month after sexual harassment accusations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein sparked the global #metoo hashtag.

Fitzpatrick, speaking under oath during the tribunal, said: "I was taped to a chair by two of my colleagues and told 'this is what happens if you speak out'."

The following May, of 2018, the BBC and then other Scottish media, including The Herald, published the picture.

This was when the story went truly global. Fitzpatrick is originally from tiny Bell Island off Newfoundland and North American news outlets were quick to pick up her claims.

In her tribunal Fitzpatrick had suggested this remark was made by a co-worker called Reid Anderson. He and another colleague were named in the media. This sparked a brutal online campaign of threats and abuse against them.

Anderson and another man were investigated by the police for assault and abduction in July 2018.

The Herald on Sunday can reveal that officers decided there was no evidence to suggest a crime had taken place.

The BBC said it had seen emails to Fitzpatrick after she raised concerns about "the chair incident" in 2011.

One was a response from a superior. It reportedly said: "I am sure they meant no harm and that was the boys just being boys."

Investigations seen by this newspaper conclude that these emails were either altered or faked.

Earlier this month a senior human resources civil servant wrote to  Fitzpatrick setting out the findings against her and inviting her to a hearing.

The Herald on Sunday has a copy of this document.

The civil servant tells Fitzpatrick that she has a case to answer on a series of charges, including:

* "You made false statements about the chair incident, in particular that the incident occurred in December 2010 and that it was an assault on you because you were a whistleblower in relation to an incident in September 2010"

• “You made false statements to the media about Scottish Government colleagues, in particular Reid Anderson....[who] was then subject to offensive and threatening comments on social media."

* "In March 2018 you presented to the investigating officer emails purporting to be sent by [officials in 2011] which had been deliberately created or altered by you at an earlier date to refer to the chair incident as having occurred on 16 December 2010. In March 2019 you falsely stated to the investigating officer that these emails were genuine.

* "You or a person acting on your behalf gave these emails to the media to support your account of the chair incident."

Fitzpatrick is accused, among a catalogue of other offences, of using "deception with the intention of obtaining personal gain and causing loss to others".

Fitzpatrick was told in her letter: "It is alleged... you gave dishonest accounts of events, made false representations, concealed material facts and submitted documents which you knew to be false."

The letter also provides a detailed background to the case. It cites testimony given by other witnesses, including Anderson. He is quoted admitting to taking the picture of Ms Fitzpatrick taped up. "He stated that the incident was 'part of office high jinks', was meant as fun and that you were a full and willing participant”.

Anderson also claimed, "that you were a willing participant in office practical jokes, for example you emptied a shredder basket over him".

Another witness claimed Ms Fitzpatrick was "as bad as the rest" and "that the office was like a kindergarten at times".

The civil servant’s letter cites Facebook exchanges between Anderson and Fitzpatrick which shows the pair on very friendly terms in late December 2010 after the alleged "chair incident".

These messages, which have been seen by The Herald on Sunday, suggest Fitzpatrick went to Anderson's home when he was away to look after his pets.

The letter also details Fitzpatrick's responses to investigators when questioned.

The Canadian, according to the letter, maintained her earlier account of events. Fitzpatrick, "disputed the investigating officer's conclusion that the photograph was most likely taken in 2009".

According to the civil servant Fitzpatrick also "referred to 'expert advice'" to back up her case on when the picture was taken but did not provide this advice to the investigating officer. Fitzpatrick also denied any knowledge of how the press got hold of the picture.

The letter includes a concluding statement given to investigators from Fitzpatrick. The Canadian is quoted as saying: "I can assure you that I was assaulted.....I was restrained against my will and I was taped to a chair. I was gagged by a tape being placed over my mouth. As a woman I was violated, humiliated and degraded.

"It causes me great stress and even more today because I have to relive it again and again.....

"It is not a joke that went wrong, it was an act that was meant to humiliate and disturb me. It was meant to teach me a lesson to keep my mouth shut."

Anderson was exonerated a year ago. In a formal letter from a senior Scottish Government civil servant, in November 2018, he was told that the charges of serious misconduct were "not established and will not be upheld".

However, Mr Anderson was told the high jinks he described were not OK.

The civil servant wrote: "I am concerned, however, that a number of examples of behaviours in the office during 2009-2010 evidenced through this investigation did not meet the standards of behaviour expected of a civil servant.

"I include in that taking a photograph of a colleague taped to a chair. However, because of the conflicting evidence about the exact circumstances of the incident, and the evidence of a wider culture and behaviours permitted in the Scrabster office at the time, I have decided that it would not be appropriate to impose any formal disciplinary on you."

It is not clear when Fitzpatrick will have her hearing. She has been facing separate serious misconduct charges since 2015, including making false and malicious allegations against superiors and colleagues and rude and inappropriate behaviour towards a member of the public.

A hearing on these earlier charges had been scheduled for 2016. It was delayed by numerous factors, including a bereavement, a period of sick absence and the employment tribunal during which Fitzpatrick claimed harassment. Fitzpatrick lost her case. She has said she will appeal.

The hearing into the earlier charges was also delayed by the investigations in to "the chair incident". All charges against her have now been folded into a single hearing.

The Herald on Sunday contacted Fitzpatrick through her lawyers, Thompsons Solicitors. She had no comment.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “This complex and sensitive case, which impacts on a number of individuals, is the subject of an ongoing internal process in line with our HR policies. We do not discuss individual staffing matters. We have been consistently clear that all staff within the Scottish Government must be treated with dignity and respect.”

How accused’s colleague suffered shocking abuse from online trolls over allegations

HE could barely bring himself to tell people his name. For much of last summer, Reid Anderson, was the Scottish poster boy of misogyny.

As such, he says, it was "daunting" to meet people.

Anderson, a new father, in 2018 was one of two men accused of gagging a female colleague, DeeAnn Fitzpatrick, and taping her to a chair.

He had told her, she claimed, this was punishment for speaking out over a 2010 incident.

Anderson has been investigated by the police and found to have no case to answer. He has been investigated by his employers.

They found he had committed no misconduct.

His accuser, however, now faces her own hearing, for allegedly misrepresenting even when the so-called chair incident took place and in what circumstances.

In May of this year Anderson wrote an impact statement to explain the effects of Fitzpatrick's accusations, especially when he was named on the BBC in May 2018.

The Herald on Sunday has seen this document.

It catalogues months of trauma, especially after he was named.

He wrote: "I did not leave the house for four days because I was in fear of meeting people. I was watching social media, fearful of being judged.

"I was obsessed with what people were saying about me. I wasn't eating or sleeping."

He said he took strength from friends and family. However, he added: " I was receiving threats from trolls, random people. On social media, Facebook. Read some of them obsessively."

Anderson got away for a bit.

But even south of the border he felt the scandal followed him. "I felt paranoid that people would recognise me from media stories and pictures....meeting new people was daunting," he said. "I was so nervous to say who I was - waiting for the reaction."

"The Chair Incident" - A timeline

November 15, 2017

Fisheries officer DeeAnn Fitzpatrick is taking her employers, Marine Scotland, to an employment hearing. Speaking at a preliminary hearing she first says she was taped to a chair and gagged by two employees as punishment for speaking out about another incident. This does not part of her claim. Her remarks are reported in the Aberdeen-based newspaper The Press and Journal.

November 23, 2017.

Fitzpatrick emails Scottish Government HR officials in response to their requests for further details about what quickly became known as "the chair incident". Fitzpatrick gives them a copy of the photograph and names two colleagues as being responsible for the incident.

March 14, 2018.

Fitzpatrick is interviewed by an investigating officer looking in to chair and related incidents.

May 23, 2018.

BBC Scotland publishes the photograph and describes emails it has obtained from Fitzpatrick's superiors downplaying the incident. Men involved in the alleged incident, including Reid Anderson, are named. The incident is reported to have taken place in December 2010 "as a result of her blowing the whistle on a threatening and misogynistic culture at Marine Scotland's office in Scrabster".

May 24, 2018.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she is "absolutely horrified" by the image and orders the country's most senior civil servant, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, to carry out an inquiry.

The New York Times covers the story, stating as fact that Fitzpatrick had been taped up and gagged in 2010 "after she complained about what she called bullying and harassment by co-workers at a fisheries office on the north coast of Scotland".

May 25, 2018. Story goes truly global. The local news website in BioBio, in Chilean Patagonia, declares that a photo had revealed "brutal abuse of female immigrant in Scotland". Two days later The Times of India runs the headline "Male staff gag sexism 'whistleblower', tape her to chair".

June 20, 2018

Fitzpatrick 'breaks her silence" in a BBC interview, describing her account of the chair incident in detail and named Anderson and another man.

"I did curse and tell them to leave me alone," she said. "They taped my legs and then they started to tape the rest of me and, because I was making noise, one of them told the other guy: 'Give me some tape. That shuts her up'.

"He took the tape and he placed it over my mouth and then he said: 'That's what you get for speaking out against the boys'."

She added: "I was petrified because I did not know what they were going to do to me.

"The fact that they could tape me to that chair said to me that they could do a lot worse and that is what frightened me.

"At one point I became numb to the point I just froze.

"I could not make a noise. I could not move. I just froze."

June 22, 2018

A preliminary disciplinary investigation is handed to senior HR officers. It includes accounts of events from multiple parties and the first suggestion that the photo was digitally recorded as having been taken in 2009, not 2010. One of the men accused by Fitzpatrick admits tying her up as part of a prank and also shooting paper at her through a peashooter. But he said this took place in 2009, not 2010, and that it was "done in jest, and with the full reciprocation of Fitzpatrick and others present".

Unknown dates in July 2018. Anderson and the other man named by Fitzpatrick are investigated by Police Scotland for abduction and assault. No charges are brought. This is not reported in the media.

August 16, 2018.

It is announced that Fitzpatrick has lost her initial harassment claim.

September 26, 2018.

A disciplinary hearing is heard for the men Fitzpatrick accused. It concludes that the chair incident is "wrong" but that it did not take place when Fitzpatrick said it did. A new investigation is ordered, this time in to Fitzpatrick's conduct. This is not reported in the media.

November 8, 2018.

Anderson is told he will not be disciplined. This is not reported in the media.

Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans announces she has concluded the review ordered by Nicola Sturgeon. She says: "A broad set of actions are under way in Marine Scotland to ensure a working environment which meets both the Civil Service Code and Scottish Government Standards of Behaviour."

November 10, 2018

Fitzpatrick’s family accuses government of ‘cover-up”. They say: "It’s just one massive cover up from an unethical and amoral government that can’t concede to misdoings.

I don’t know how you all sleep at night but hear this now, if this ridiculous decision on your behalf brings our sister to suicide you won’t have to worry about backlash and the public outcry because it will be your fault."

Unknown date in March, 2019

A preliminary disciplinary report on Fitzpatrick is concluded, including a forensic digital investigation of the chair incident photograph and emails Fitzpatrick claimed supported her case.

March 30, 2019

It emerges Fitzpatrick is to sue the Scottish Government over stress.

October 3, 2019

Scottish Government informs Ms Fitzpatrick that she is facing a disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct