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Court threat to gran... months after her death

PUBLISHED: 13:31 13 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:56 25 August 2010

A GREAT-grandmother who prided herself on paying bills on time was threatened with court action for failing to pay for two pints of milk worth £1.18 - three months after she died.

A GREAT-grandmother who prided herself on paying bills on time was threatened with court action for failing to pay for two pints of milk worth £1.18 - three months after she died.

Constance "Winnie" Mills, 89, of Cambridge Green, New Eltham, was sent the demand twice in April, weeks after her death on January 12.

She had been visiting her daughter, Catherine McCabe, in Wisbech, Suffolk, and had ordered the milk delivery for her return.

But she fell ill and unexpectedly died just days after an operation for a twisted bowel.

Mrs McCabe had to cope with the distress of her mother's death, and was left sickened by the lack of compassion shown by Dairy Crest, of Brook Street, Erith, which issued the demand.

She received a terse letter dated April 22 from the company threatening court action and associated costs after having her mother's mail re-directed.

Mrs McCabe, 57, said: "Mum would be turning in her grave if she knew. She never owed anything in her life.

"That somebody would send a letter like that for such a tiny amount is beyond belief, especially to an elderly pensioner.

"The thing that really upset me was the response of the woman I spoke to at the dairy company.

"There was no regret, no apology, no condolence whatsoever. Other people I've contacted, like my mum's opticians in Eltham, have been so kind and sympathetic."

She found the first demand for payment, dated April 13, when she visited her mother's house recently. It had not been re-directed.

Mrs McCabe said: "Somebody had to authorise those letters and somebody had to sign for them. It wasn't a machine that was responsible. They shouldn't be able to get away with that behaviour, it's not right.

"What if it was somebody suffering from dementia, struggling to remember things, who got a letter like that. It would frighten them out of their wits."

After being approached by the Times, Dairy Crest issued an apology to Mrs McCabe last Friday.

A spokesman for the company said: "We would like to offer our sincere apology to Mrs McCabe for a letter that was sent out in error, and for any distress it may have caused.

"Dairy Crest has specific procedures for customer communication and in this case an administrational error resulted in this incorrect letter being sent.

"Since the situation has been brought to our attention, we have launched an inquiry into the exact cause of the complaint.

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