IT was a story that made international headlines.
And it’s now earned Shields Gazette reporter Verity Ward the coveted title of story of the year in the Johnston Press awards.
It beat strong competition from across the country for the national title from our parent publishing group as judges praised how the story had spread around the world after appearing in the Gazette.
On October 16 last year we revealed how South Tyneside care worker Sheri Emerson had been horrified after receiving a text message from beyond the grave.
Sheri was stunned when her mobile flashed up with a message from her grandmother Lesley Emerson, who had died in June 2011.
The 59-year-old had been buried in Harton Cemetery, South Shields, with her mobile phone after losing her battle with bowel cancer.
Over the three years since, Sheri, her father John Emerson, 42, and uncle Graham Emerson, 29, had sent messages to Lesley’s mobile for comfort, after phone company 02 promised the number would not be reused.
Then 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.”
The 22-year-old from South Shields, said: “I felt sick when I read it. I was in shock and didn’t know what to think.
When dad Graham rang his mother’s phone, he spoke to a man who said he’d been using the number for the last few weeks and had thought the family’s texts were hoax messages from friends. Phone giant 02 confirmed Lesley’s number had been sold on to another phone company but they were trying to retrieve it for the family.