A FAMILY who sent text messages to a mobile buried with their late grandmother were horrified to get replies from ‘beyond the grave’ - after a cruel prankster took over the number.
Relatives of Lesley Emerson placed her beloved mobile handset into the coffin with her when she died aged 59 - because she always loved texting people.
They were promised the number would never be given to anyone else and occasionally sent her a loving SMS as a way of coping with the grief.
But three years after she passed O2 gave Lesley’s number to another customer - who began to get the messages and realised they were being sent to a dead person.
The new phone number owner then turned prankster - and sent a series of messages from beyond the grave.
Lesley’s granddaughter Sheri sent a text to her nan on Wednesday and on Thursday got a reply saying: “I’m watching over you, you’ll get through this, you’ll be all right”.
Sheri’s blood ran cold and she thought she was getting messages from the dead - until the family rang the number and the new owner confessed.
Gutted Sheri, a care worker from South Shields, said: “I felt sick when I read it, I was in shock, I didn’t know what to think.
“I’d sent a message on Wednesday night telling her about family life and then I got the reply on Thursday.
“Obviously we know that nan wasn’t going to ever reply, it was just something we did as a comfort for ourselves, because she loved to text.
“So you can imagine what I was thinking seeing a message flash up from her.”
Lesley died of bowel cancer in July 2011 and was buried with her favourite things - including her mobile phone.
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.
They say phone company 02 promised the number would be terminated forever.
But on Thursday Sheri received a message saying: “I’m watching over you, you’ll get thought this, you’ll be all right.”
Another said: ‘’I’m watching over you and it’s all going to get better. Just push through.”
A distressed Sheri then sent another message asking who sent the text, to which she received the bizarre reply of: “A disturbing vegetarian”.
Sheri said: “The person must have realised what was going on and they replied that they were sorry.”
Sheri’s Uncle John then rang Lesley’s phone and spoke to a man who said he’d been using her old number for the last few weeks.
John, from Whitburn, South Tyneside, said: “After my mam died I rang 02 and said can I 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 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 have confirmed that Lesley’s number was sold on to phone company 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 their 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.”