Sunderland: Bradley Lowery, the six-year-old football fan who captured the hearts of thousands as he fought a rare form of cancer, has died, his family has confirmed.
Bradley, a Sunderland AFC supporter, became a household name after his parents documented his battle with neuroblastoma – a rare form of cancer which primarily affects children.
In a statement on his Facebook page, his family wrote: “My brave boy has went with the angels today 07/07/17 at 13:35, in mammy and daddies arms surrounded by his family.
“He was our little superhero and put the biggest fight up but he was needed else where.There are no words to describe how heart broken we are. “Thank you everyone for all your support and kind words. Sleep tight baby boy and fly high with them angels.”
Bradley, from Blackhall Colliery in County Durham, was first diagnosed when he was just 18 months old and fought the cancer for two years before going into remission.
But in July 2016 his family received the devastating news that the cancer had returned and began campaigning to raise money for treatment abroad.
Unfortunately Bradley’s condition deteriorated beyond the point of a cure but not before he garnered the support of the nation – particularly due to his friendship with then Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe.
Defoe, who has since transferred to AFC Bournemouth, became Bradley’s “best friend” and would frequently visit him in hospital along with other Sunderland players.
Bradley was mascot for Sunderland several times and also led England out on the pitch when they played Lithuania in a World Cup qualifier in March. Defoe scored during the match, which marked his return to international duty.
On Thursday evening, Bradley’s parents said he had become “unresponsive” but was still listening to everything they said.
Speaking at a press conference earlier that day, Defoe broke down in tears when asked about Bradley saying he “only has a matter of days” but “will always be in my heart for the rest of my life”.