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MP replied to teenager’s letter months after death
OXFORD West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood accidentally responded to a 15-year-old girl’s letter eight months after the girl’s death made national headlines.
Martha Fernback died on July 20 last year after taking half a gram of ecstasy in Hinksey Park, South Oxford.
Her case has received national attention, partly because of her mother Anne-Marie Cockburn’s campaign to have drugs legalised and regulated.
Martha wrote to Ms Blackwood in March last year for a GCSE citizenship project on mental health.
The MP said her office did not receive the letter until March 20 this year, and then replied to it because they thought it could not be the same Martha Fernback.
Miss Cockburn, 43, said: “I was incredulous. This was pretty unpleasant.
“I thought ‘you take 14 months to respond to a letter?’ “Martha had kept saying to me ‘Mum, I haven’t got a response’, but in the aftermath of her death I kind of forgot about it.
“I’m not going to be egotistical and think Martha’s name is important to everyone, but does it just mean that teenagers can die and just be disposable and people think ‘I don‘t want to deal with that subject’?”
It is understood all post going to the Houses of Parliament goes through several stages for security reasons.
Ms Blackwood said: “I have spoken to Mrs Cockburn and apologised for the distress my letter must inevitably have caused.
“As I explained to her, my office only received Martha's letter on March 20, 2014. Because the letter arrived so many months after Martha’s death and was undated and signed by a second individual, I am afraid I did not realise it was from her and simply replied to it as best I could.
“I have offered Mrs Cockburn my help as her local MP in bringing her campaign to the attention of the Government.”
Miss Cockburn, who lives in Summertown, is recruiting MPs’ help in her national campaign to have drugs legalised and safely regulated.
Miss Cockburn said the letter from Ms Blackwood was “very detailed” and “incredibly thorough”.
She added: “What Nicola did without realising it was emphasise the need to be involved with your community.
“Any MP in her position is going to be mortified, mainly for themselves.
“I have had numerous shocks over the last 11 months, or else this would have been a lot more serious.”
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