msnbc.com
updated 11/26/2011 10:02:26 PM ET 2011-11-27T03:02:26

A 79-year-old widow has died after a scuffle with thugs who stole her purse and her most cherished possession — her husband’s ashes, which she carried with her for 17 years.

Nellie Geraghty of Greater Manchester died in Royal Oldham Hospital about midnight Friday, Sky News reported.

She had suffered fatal head injuries during a fight with a pair of robbers on Thursday, police told Sky News.

Geraghty was discovered in an alleyway near her home in Shaw. She had been carrying her purse and inside was about $300 and a blue velvet bag she had made to hold ashes of her husband, Frank. He died died 17 years ago.

The woman's purse was missing, but the black strap was still in her hand, Sky News reported.

"There has been a level of violence used. Clearly Nellie has ended up on the floor and as a result of those injuries she's now sadly passed away," Catherine Hankinson, superintendent from Greater Manchester Police, told Sky News. "Nellie's sister and children are absolutely devastated by what's happened, and the fact that their dad's ashes were also in that bag are now missing just makes this even more difficult to cope with."

Police arrested two teens, aged 14 and 17, on suspicion of robbery, police said.

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