Post haste - not for this letter

SHOCKED Ipswich woman Michala Andrews had the surprise of her life when a letter addressed to a Mr G Fuller arrived at her door.For not only does Mr Fuller no longer live at the Rushmere Road house – he also died 15 years ago.

By Matt Eley

SHOCKED Ipswich woman Michala Andrews had the surprise of her life when a letter addressed to a Mr G Fuller arrived at her door.

For not only does Mr Fuller no longer live at the Rushmere Road house – he also died 15 years ago.

The former occupant of Mrs Andrew's home wrote a letter to the council in the year Ipswich Town won the FA Cup and now, 24-years later, he has finally received a reply.

Sadly George Fuller, who was inquiring about an overgrown track near Kesgrave in 1978, died some time ago.

Waitress Mrs Andrews has been living in the house with her husband Kevin for eleven years. She was understandably gobsmacked when the reply from Suffolk County Council landed on her doormat.

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She said: "I couldn't believe it. In all the time we have lived here we have never received any letters addressed to him before.

"I opened it because it had Suffolk County Council on it and I thought it might be a bill."

She added: "The neighbours across the road knew them quite well and told us they were elderly and both died some time ago."

Mr Fuller lived in the house up until his death with his wife Mabel, who died about four years ago.

In the letter, dated February 6 1978, Mr Fuller told the council a track running from Peacock Cottage to Foxhall Hall, which he used for cycling, had become overgrown.

The reply from the council, dated March 12 2002, stated they were investigating Mr Fuller's claim for a footpath to be upgraded to a bridleway. In the package they also included a copy of his original letter, a map of the area surrounding the path and a survey for him to complete.

In fact it took 24-years for the reply to be sent to Mr Fuller and reach his home – which is about 1.6 miles from County Hall.

Brian the snail from the Magic Roundabout – popular in 1978 – could have made the journey in less than two weeks!

The letter states: "You submitted a statement of evidence giving details of the use made of the route. A copy of your statement is attached to this letter.

"Please will you confirm the contents of your statement. It would be helpful to me if you would complete the more modern evidence form and return it to me. I would also welcome any further evidence, information or comments which you may wish to make on the claim."

A spokesman for the council has now apologised for the blunder.

He said: "We are genuinely sorry this has happened. The explanation is this correspondence, dated from more than 20 years ago, is part of something going on at the moment and we needed to speak to people who originally contacted us.

"Unfortunately we have no way of finding out if people are still residing at the same addresses or even if they are still alive."

The spokesman explained that as far back as 1950 the county council were given the task of providing a definitive map of the area. This ongoing project involved deciding if footpaths should be upgraded to bridleways, hence Mr Fuller's original letter in 1978.

Plans to upgrade the pathway were scrapped in the early 1980s but correspondence continued to pour into County Hall and is only now being answered as the council re-consider the possible upgrade.

However Mrs Andrews is far from impressed with the council's oversight.

The 32-year-old mother-of-one said: "I think it's a bit sad really, obviously they should check these things they must have known he was an elderly man

"It's incredible I was only eight years old when he wrote the letter and here I am receiving the reply now."

In the interim

Things that have happened in between Mr Fuller sending his letter and the council responding.

n There have been four British Prime Ministers; James Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair.

n The Orwell Bridge has been constructed, opened and used by millions of motorists

n The face of Ipswich has changed considerably with new shopping centres, cinemas and a complete revamp of the wet dock area. Some buildings have also disappeared, such as the Paul's Maltings

n Britain has been at war in both the Falklands and the Gulf

n When the letter was sent Nelson Mandela was still in prison, by the time the reply arrived he had been released, served a term as president and retired from public office.

n Ipswich Town have yet to win the FA Cup again, but they did manage to win the Uefa Cup in 1981. They have also been relegated from the top league twice and promoted back again.