Mandy Kelly and her husband Gary had the perfect life in Liverpool.

Gary, a police constable, met Mandy at the Liverpool City Council mortuary where she was the senior anatomical pathology technologist - effectively the boss.

"He was the police officer who brought in a body, we fell in love and have never spent a day apart after that," said Mandy.

She "lived and breathed" her job. Gary had a successful 30-year career with the police.

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They renovated their home, holidayed four times a year in places like Florida and Malta.

Money was never an issue.

The couple moved to New Zealand in January 2016 to be closer to Mandy's sister and her family.

"Dad worked in the Merchant Navy and ever since I was a little girl he would tell me stories about how fabulous Auckland was."

Gary was close to retirement and had to give up his pension. Mandy quit her job.
They moved to New Zealand. She got a job as a forensic technician at the Auckland City Hospital mortuary.

It was, she said, "the worst thing we have done in our lives".

Mandy claims she was bullied from day one. She claims things got so bad she started eating lunch in her car. She claims management knew and did nothing.

She alleges a colleague undermined her ability to do reconstructions, a job that required special skills and technique.

"It's when the deceased are the most vulnerable. You want their families to know they have been treated with dignity and respect - they might want to see them."

She claims she was reconstructing a male who had jumped in front of a train.

"His head looked like a ripped bag. I had to put the bones back together, patch his skin and stitch him up. I was proud of what I had done."

The colleague, she alleges, paced up and down behind her while she was working and when she had finished yelled: "Has his f****** head fallen off yet?"

Mandy and Gary have just completed heir move back to Liverpool.

"If I knew what was going on [in Auckland] I would not have given up my life here. We have lost everything."

Two months ago Mandy lodged a formal complaint with the Employment Relations Authority.

Worksafe, the Government's workplace health and safety regulator, has launched its own investigation after complaints from a second woman - who doesn't want to be named, but wanted to be referred to as a whistleblower.

The Herald on Sunday has seen copies of her correspondence to WorkSafe.
She's a 33-year-old forensic pathology technician, also from the UK. She complained to WorkSafe in February.

"I was told I didn't have enough evidence to investigate," she said.

The whistleblower claims she lodged multiple complaints with senior management at the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB), which runs the mortuary.

Eventually she contacted Allan Halse from Culture Safe, a Hamilton-based advocacy group.

Halse said he had been working on the case for two years and from the information he had seen believed it to be "one of the worse cases of bullying I have seen".

"The ADHB management have actively condoned the bullying and done nothing to stop it," he claimed.

A medical certificate provided by the whistleblower's GP was included in her initial complaint to Worksafe.

It said: "I am very concerned about the extent of workplace bullying and harassment that X has been subjected to over a period of time, especially within an area of the health sector.

"I would strongly encourage the higher management to look into this situation as soon as possible and put in place a process around workplace bullying as currently what is happening to her is unacceptable."

Two weeks ago, Worksafe assigned a new investigator to look into the complaint.

"I got [it] a week ago. It came across my desk, I had a quick look at it and I've decided to look into it more," investigator Bruce Greathead said.

The whistleblower, who graduated in a master of science degree in the UK, trained as a pathology technician because she "wanted to help people at their most vulnerable time".

"I sacrificed my family and friends and moved to the other side of the world alone."

The woman said New Zealand appealed because she loved the outdoors lifestyle and heard Kiwis "were nice and friendly".

"I was told the ADHB was a great multicultural environment to work in but it's so racist. It was a real shock to me."

She alleges the mortuary staff had to put up with faulty equipment, including broken saws and contaminated blades.

She claims bodies were rinsed with a hose after a post mortem and left naked on a stainless steel tray which hadn't been cleaned. Fed up with the way she claims to have been treated by her boss she made a formal complaint in 2012.

Mandy got a job as a forensic technician at the Auckland City Hospital mortuary. Photo / Doug Sherring
Mandy got a job as a forensic technician at the Auckland City Hospital mortuary. Photo / Doug Sherring

The complaint was upheld by lab manager Ross Hewett.

In a letter to the whistleblower, Hewett wrote: "I confirm that we have completed the investigation process and had the investigation meetings with [the boss]. The investigation on the complaint alleging harassment is upheld."

The whistleblower claims the bullying got worse.

In 2014 the whistleblower she made a second complaint about a different colleague "physically assaulting" and engaging in "bullying/harassing behaviour" towards her.

While that complaint was being investigated the whistleblower was ordered to take leave. She was off for nearly two years and asked to see mental health specialists to determine if she had an "ongoing mental illness" and depression.

"They forced me to go see two psychiatrists to prove I wasn't crazy. There was nothing wrong with my mental health but they didn't want me back at work.

"I have been doubted so much I have lost a lot of confidence. It has absolutely destroyed me."

The whistleblower claims:

• She was told she was "too white" to do a post mortem on a Maori male.
• She was teased about her UK accent
• A colleague referred to a dead patient as a "Gollywog".
• Staff made "judgemental statements" about "disabled patients, homosexuals and suicide victims".

The Herald on Sunday has spoken to other staff who have made similar allegations but not followed up with formal complaints.

One was a forensic pathologist who worked alongside the whistleblower. He said he was bullied too.

"I worked closely with each of the employees at the morgue. I became aware of some difficult personalities as well as an insidious undercurrent of drug and alcohol abuse."

Although he didn't make a formal complaint, he expressed his concerns in a letter to the ADHB earlier this year.

"It is my understanding that bullying behaviour of the employees has not abated," he wrote.

"Apparently [the anonymous whistle blower] continues to be targeted by the same employees who were initially investigated.

"They do not speak to her, they leave the room when she enters."
The man said he believed many employees had "broken down on the job" and could no longer work there.

One alleged bully left his role earlier this year. The man, who spent 21 years working for the ADHB, dismissed the claims about him as "malicious lies".

He said he took stress leave at the end of last year because he couldn't cope with the "toxic environment".

"I am dead in the water. They told me I am an alcoholic. I have been told by health and safety I am banned by the ADHB."

The man alleged he too was "bullied out of his job".

"I am not one of them, I was not a bully, I have never been part of 'them'. That's why I started drinking because I was ostracised and shoved out of the gang.

"I 'fessed up late last year that my drinking had got heavier in the last two years due to the sad state in the mortuary. The alcohol wasn't the cause of my problems, it was the consequence".

Like the whistleblower, Mandy claims technicians made racist slurs during post mortems.

The sacked technician responded: "(The) British weren't used to New Zealand black humour. Sometimes when people are stressed they might say things that are not politically correct. It's a coping mechanism, it's not what you say but how it's interpreted."

Briton Tim Reen, currently a teaching technician at Oxford University, worked as a locum at the ADHB in 2009. He acknowledged there was "black humour" but said it was "never ever at any time directed at the deceased".

However, he said bullying was "normalised culture" that shocked him.

The Herald on Sunday first put questions to the ADHB last week. In response to a long list of detailed questions about specific incidents and people, the board provided a statement attributed to Joanne Gibbs, director of provider services.

"For legal reasons we are not able to comment on unsubstantiated hearsay in respect to named individuals. What we can say is that in the case of Forensic Pathology, any issues that are brought to our attention are always investigated and appropriate actions taken, as they are within the rest of the DHB.

"Auckland DHB believes strongly in providing a safe, supportive and productive environment for our people, patients and whanau. We have done, and continue to do, extensive work on improving our culture."

This week the Herald on Sunday was made aware of a phone call between Mandy's husband Gary and Ross Hewett, Lab Plus laboratory manager and Mandy's then boss. The call was made in July last year. It forms a central component of the complaint being investigated by Worksafe. Culture Safe informed the ADHB about the call in February.

In the call, Gary Kelly told Hewett that Mandy was "coming home in tears every day, she was stressed and frightened by what her colleagues might do to her".

Hewett appeared to acknowledge the culture of bullying at the mortuary before Mandy started working there.

"I am fully aware of the situation but my hands are tied."

Hewett said one bully was "very covert in what he does, he's very subtle and has a history of it. It's very difficult for us to try and do something".

Another was "a little more open about it," Hewett told Gary Kelly, adding: "It's unacceptable. I think there is a lot of jealousy around [Mandy's] competency - she's just a bit of a threat."

There was nothing wrong with my mental health but they didn't want me back at work.

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Gary persuaded Mandy to lodge an official complaint a month later.

In a subsequent email to her, Hewett wrote: "Please keep a diary of their behaviours and actions . I am always available via email or telephone and would always find time to catch up with you in person. You are a tough Liver Bird [a reference to her home city],but let me do my job and sort these individuals out properly."

Mandy said she'd twice offered her resignation to Hewett but "he talked me out of it".
Last October the ADHB upheld one complaint of bullying by a female technician towards Mandy.

The findings revealed neither Hewett nor John Russell, Hewett's then boss, were interviewed as part of the investigation.

Mandy never went back to work, she felt it was "unsafe" to do so.

The ADHB suggested she worked at a different department at their Greenlane site.
Despondent and broken, the Kellys made the decision to return to the UK.

"Where is the accountability? Nobody cares," Mandy said. "Is this the New Zealand way? All the ADHB has done is get rid of the victims and not the problem."

Russell took early retirement in November after 40 years as technical head of the Auckland mortuary. He declined to answer questions.

"It is inappropriate for me to comment if someone has brought this to your attention, obviously the hospital must be having an investigation. I am not acknowledging anything - end of conversation."

This week the ADHB declined to answer further detailed questions about the WorkSafe inquiry and the phone conversation between Gary Kelly and Ross Hewett. It said it had nothing to add to the statement from Joanne Gibbs.

The Herald on Sunday approached board chairman Dr Lester Levy, who did not respond to a message for comment.

The whistleblower said: "I want the ADHB to be accountable and take responsibility for what they have done. They have destroyed my career and I think every single one of those people should lose their jobs. To think the ADHB doesn't have the backbone to deal with bullying is unbelievable. They have bullied me and they will try to do it to the next person from the UK. I could write that person's complaint now."