Family who sent texts to mobile buried with late gran get replies 'from beyond grave'
Shocked Sheri Emerson received a message from her beloved dead grandma from 'beyond the grave' - after a cruel prankster was given her old number.
Lesley Emerson, who died aged 58, was buried with her mobile phone because she loved to send her loving family text messages.
Granddaughter Sheri and other close family members continued to 'contact' the dead grandma via SMS as a means of coping with their grief.
But a shocked Sheri got a reply telling her: "I'm watching over you, and it's all going to get better. Just push through."
Lesley's family was assured her number would never be used again. But, three years after her death, O2 gave her old number to another customer - who answered the messages thinking they were 'jokes' from friends.
The new user then turned prankster - and sent a series of replies when he realised his number once belonged to a dead person.
Sheri's blood ran cold until the new owner confessed.
Sheri, 22, said: "I sent the text to gran talking about what I had been doing, just as I always did.
"When the reply came through at lunchtime the following day I felt sick. Crazy stuff was flashing through my mind like "Is she still alive?"
"Then I started getting horrible visions that someone might have dug up her grave and taken her phone, my mind was full of all sorts of really unpleasant possibilities.
"The person who was texting me was apologetic when we actually rang the number and said he thought his friends had been winding him up.
"He got the number innocently but 02 had promised my dad when he rang after Nan's death that the number would be destroyed so as far as we were concerned it would always be hers.
"Nan got bowel cancer and died very quickly, she was only diagnosed in October 2010 and died the following June. It came so suddenly and none of us could quite get our heads around what had happened.
"It helped to text her, that was the way we were always in touch every day when she was alive. I texted her at least once a week for three years until last week I suddenly got a reply.
"I stared at my phone and the message was written as though it was from her, it was so strange, I went cold and shaky.
"The phone company have told us they will try to retrieve the number and take it out of circulation, but for me it's too late, that special way I had of feeling I was in touch with her is gone forever.
"I couldn't bear to go to her grave - she was like a mother to me, we had a special bond."
The care worker from South Shields, South Tyneside, added: "You can imagine what I was thinking seeing a message flash up from her."
Lesley was buried with her favourite things in South Shields Harton Cemetery - including her mobile.
During the last three years, Sheri, along with her father John Emerson, 42, and uncle Graham Emerson, 29, have sent messages to Lesley's mobile for comfort.
Phone giants 02 assured them the number would be terminated forever.
But several messages came through last week, with another telling Sheri 'not to worry'.
She then sent another message asking who sent the text, to which she received the bizarre reply of: "A disturbing vegetarian".
Sheri added: "The person must have realised what was going on and replied that they were sorry."
Sheri's Uncle Graham contacted Lesley's phone and spoke to a man who said he'd been using her old number for the last few weeks.
Graham, from Whitburn, South Tyneside, said: "After my mam died I rang 02 and said can I pay to ensure they did not use the number.
"They said there was no need as they would disconnect it and it would be hers.
"We are a big family of texters, if we ever fell out or had something to say, we'd always just send a message, that's why we buried her with her phone.
"So to think someone else now has our mam's number is just awful, we can't believe 02 has done this.
"I can't bear to visit mum's graveside. For me that was a way to still feel connected to her."
02 confirmed that Lesley's number was sold on to phone company giffgaff. They are trying to retrieve it for the Emerson family.
A spokeswoman from 02 said: "We've been in touch with giffgaff and they have left their customer messages on e-mail.
"At the moment it's a waiting game until he gets back in touch. Meanwhile we have spoken to Graham Emerson.
"He understands what's happening and is appreciative that we're trying to get the number back."