A mother-of-two unlikely to see her 40th birthday in November has been left “extremely upset” by a letter from the district council criticising the state of her garden, her sister has said.

“I am absolutely shocked you have sent this letter,’’ Fritha Hislop, sister of terminally ill Debra Davis (pictured) wrote in response to the letter by East Hampshire District Council.

‘‘The upset this has caused is considerable.”

She added Ms Davis uses a mobility scooter and cannot use the stairs. She is receiving care, at the end of her life, by her teenage daughter.

“How her garden grows is the least of our worries,” Miss Hislop writes.

“If you had actually looked behind the scenes, instead of throwing out a letter like this, I would have hoped that you would have looked at options open to the family to support general maintenance.

“The next correspondence from you I hope to be more helpful and productive in helping Debra, her children, her dog and her property in her final day.”

Miss Hislop said her sister received her skin cancer diagnosis about eight years ago and now has many tumours in her lungs. “She was extremely upset by the letter,” she said.

A council spokesman said: “Our Environmental Protection Team contacted the home owner, Ms Davis, after we received a complaint expressing concern that the overgrown garden was attracting rats. We now understand Ms Davis is very unwell and we completely accept she is in no position to carry out these kinds of tasks. 

“We are very sorry to hear of her deteriorating health and we would like to pass on our best wishes to her and her family.

“This kind of personal information was not available to us at the time of contacting her, and with personal data laws, nor could it have been.

“As a council we have an obligation to follow up matters of public health. Rats can carry harmful diseases and we have a responsibility to act on any reports of rodent activity quickly and efficiently. This communication has been our only contact with the property. 

“However, we are very sorry for the distress this issue has caused her family at this very difficult time. Our officers are seeking to speak directly to Mrs Hislop to see if there is any further assistance we can offer.”