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Widow's family in appeal over ashes

A family has appealed for the return of the ashes of a widow's late husband which were stolen in a street robbery.

Nellie Geraghty, 79, died in hospital from a head injury she suffered as she desperately tried to cling on to her handbag containing the ashes of her partner, Frank, who died 17 years ago. She was attacked in the street near her home in Shaw, near Oldham, on Thursday lunchtime.

The handbag, which also contained £200 in cash, was taken but the strap was still clasped in the hand of the pensioner, who is thought to have put up a fierce struggle.

Her family said that Mrs Geraghty carried the ashes everywhere with her and wished to be cremated with them so they could be scattered together on Mr Geraghty's allotment. The ashes were secured in a small box in a blue velvet drawstring bag

Her sister, Maureen Barrow, 67, said: "That has always been our fear, that one day her bag would be stolen because basically she wouldn't have wanted to carry on living unless he was there. This is why she put up such a fight. The money that was in the bag, she would have given it to them no problem. She would have let it go. Her husband's ashes had been with her for 17 years. This is why she put up such a fight. For Frank she laid down her life."

Appealing directly to those who took the ashes, she continued: "They know where the ashes are and what they have been doing with them. Please get them back to us somehow by phoning us, phoning the police, leaving them somewhere where someone will find them.

"We just want the ashes back so that she can be cremated with Frank. To the people in Shaw, we ask that they please check their gardens, outhouses, sheds, ginnels, bins, anywhere. We need your help to convict the thug or thugs that have done this to Nellie."

She added: "We can't believe anybody could be so cruel. She was five foot nothing and almost 80. How could people do this to people? We just don't understand it."

The former school cleaner, who was married for 42 years, had four children, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Two teenage boys, aged 14 and 17, have been questioned on suspicion of her murder and have been released on bail until January 9.