The loved ones of Joan Hoggett have thanked those who rushed the aid of the great-grandmother after she was subjected to a savage knife attack - and pleaded with those suffering mental health issues to seek support.
The 62-year-old from Grindon was working at the One Stop shop in Sea Road, Fulwell, on the night of Wednesday, September 5, when she was stabbed to death by Ethan Mountain, 19, of Heaton Gardens in South Shields.
Today, a jury at Newcastle Crown Court was directed by a judge to return a verdict of not guilty on the murder charge he faced.
It came after the Crown Prosecution Service took the decision following evidence given by an expert, that it was likely Mountain was of diminished responsibility during the attack.
Michelle Young, the daughter of Mrs Hoggett, read out a statement following the court case today.
She said: "We would like to take this opportunity to express our thanks to the emergency services and the police who quickly attended to my mam.
"Also, for the support of Northumbria Police, family and friends.
"The Fulwell community have had an amazing impact on both myself, brother and my children and family members with their exceptional community spirit.
"You all have helped in ways we cannot fully express.
"Our whole family have struggled and are devastated over the way my mam was killed.
"I personally feel that anyone suffering from mental health issues should not delay getting help and not avoid talking about it.
"That could save someone else's family going through what we have all gone through these past six months."
A vigil was held for Joan in Fulwell in the days after her death, with businesses running collections to help support her family.
Joan's son Robert added: "I would just like to say to anybody who is thinking of taking a knife out with them, think twice, you are not just talking one life, you are taking the victim's families and your own families' lives as well.
"Once they are gone, you can never get them back."
They said they were now waiting for the sentencing hearing, which had left them in limbo.
Robert added: "It's not the ending we wanted, but we're pleased the police and prosecution have tried everything, but it's the mental health system, what can you do?
"Obviously you don't realise until you're in the situation how many nice people there are out there and it does mean a lot to us."
The family said if one person hands in a knife and seeks help, it would make a difference.
The case will return to court next Friday, March 22, at 2pm for a sentencing hearing following the completion of further mental health reports.
Leonard Smith, mitigating, told the court it was accepted Mountain would be detained for "a very, very long time" with one of the options to impose a hospital order with a restriction which would mean he could only be released on the say so of the Home Secretary, or other lengthy detentions.
He added: "One feels nothing but genuine sympathy for the family of Mrs Hoggett as this will cause further pain for them today.
"They came here today to know what the final resolution would be in this case.
"My application for the sentence to be adjourned, which will mean a wait for another short period of time to next Friday, prolongs their agony.
"I have read their impact statements and one would have to have a heart of stone to not be moved massively by that."