Survey sent to dead woman

RED-FACED market researchers today apologised after inviting a Felixstowe man's mother to join a national panel 18 months after she died.A letter addressed to the 'Late Mrs L E Alexander' sent by Birmingham-based BMG and signed by Jon Rouse, chief executive of the government-run Housing Corporation, asked Mrs Alexander to fill in a five-page questionnaire.

RED-FACED market researchers today apologised after inviting a Felixstowe man's mother to join a national panel 18 months after she died.

A letter addressed to the 'Late Mrs L E Alexander' sent by Birmingham-based BMG and signed by Jon Rouse, chief executive of the government-run Housing Corporation, asked Mrs Alexander to fill in a five-page questionnaire.

Her son Colin opened the letter after it dropped through the door of the Hereward Housing home they used to share in Winston Close.

Part of it read: “Dear The Late Mrs L E Alexander.

“I am writing to ask if you would like to take part in a new nation-wide panel of residents.

“It's entirely up to you whether you want to take part. You won't be cold-called and the panel will be confidential.

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“If you are interested in being part of this, please complete and return the enclosed recruitment questionnaire by Friday, February 24, 2006.”

Mr Alexander, 60, whose mother Lilly was in her 90s when she died, said: “At first I thought they had made a mistake or it was to do with insurance or something like that.

“Then when I read on it said 'Dear The Late Mrs Alexander can you please fill in this questionnaire?'.

“I wasn't that upset. I thought it was irresponsible.

“If someone had just lost their wife or a close relative in the last couple of months, it would have had a lot worse effect on them, than on me.”

A spokesman for BMG said 9,000 letters have been sent out nationally with Mr Rouse's printed signature on. The names and addresses were taken from a database belonging to Hereward Housing's parent company, Sanctuary Housing.

The BMG spokesman said: “I absolutely appreciate it's distressing for Mr Alexander. It should not have happened and it's regrettable. In my experience it's unheard of to use the wording it does. The letter is a standard letter. It's unfortunate we didn't find that one and we apologise.”

Nick Abbey, chief executive of Hereward Housing, said: “I'm extremely disappointed that a letter has gone out to anybody in these circumstances and I quite understand Mr Alexander's point that it could have caused considerable distress. We will certainly check our records to see if there's anything we have done and where this could have been picked up from because it's extremely regrettable.”

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