A DEVASTATED South Tyneside woman was left horrified after receiving a text message from beyond the grave.
Sheri Emerson was stunned when her mobile flashed up with a message from her gran Lesley Emerson, who died in June 2011.
The 59-year-old was buried in Harton Cemetery, South Shields, with her favourite things – including her mobile phone – after she lost her battle with bowel cancer.
Over the last three years, Sheri, her father John Emerson, 42, and her uncle Graham Emerson, 29, have sent messages to Lesley’s mobile for comfort, after they say phone company 02 promised the number would be terminated forever.
However, last week, Sheri received a reply.
The message, from her grandmother’s phone said: “I’m watching over you and it’s all going to get better. Just push through.”
Sheri, a 22-year-old care worker from South Shields, said: “I felt sick when I read it. I was in shock and didn’t know what to think.
“I’d sent a message on the Wednesday night telling nan about family life and then I got the reply on Thursday.
“Obviously we know that nan wasn’t ever going to reply to our texts. It was just something we did as a comfort for ourselves, because she loved to text.
“You can imagine what I was thinking seeing a message flash up from her.”
A distressed Sheri then sent another message asking who had sent the text, to which she received the reply: “A disturbing vegetarian”.
She said: “I admit my next message wasn’t very nice as I was so shocked and upset, but then the person must have then realised what was going on and they replied saying they were sorry.”
Graham then rang Mrs Emerson’s phone and spoke to a man who said he’d been using the number for the last few weeks.
The man was very apologetic about the situation and said he thought the texts were hoax messages from friends. However, Graham is upset that the number has been reused after he says he made of point of ringing 02 after his mother’s death to ensure the family could keep it.
Mr Emerson, from Whitburn, said: “After my mam died I rang 02 and asked if I could pay to keep her 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 have something to say, we’d always just send a message. That’s why we buried her with her phone.
“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 have confirmed that Lesley’s number was sold on to another phone company called giffgaff.
However, they say they are now doing their best to retrieve it for the Emerson family.
A spokeswoman from 02 said: “We’ve been in touch with giffgaff and they have left its customer messages on email.
“At the moment, it’s a waiting game until he gets back in touch.
“In the meanwhile we have spoken to Graham Emerson. He understands what’s happening and is appreciative that we’re trying to get the number back.”