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Coronavirus Kent: Chelsea manager Frank Lampard's message for brave young abuse survivor Tony Hudgell during lockdown


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A football star recorded a special message for a brave young boy who survived horrific abuse at the hands of his parents when he was just a baby.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard surprised five-year-old Tony Hudgell, from Kings Hill, during a segment on ITV's This Morning, broadcast via a live link-up, during the coronavirus outbreak.

Frank Lampard talks to Paula, Tony and Mark Hudgell via a video link, broadcast on This Morning Picture: ITV
Frank Lampard talks to Paula, Tony and Mark Hudgell via a video link, broadcast on This Morning Picture: ITV

Young Tony who started primary school in September, captured the nation's hearts as devastating details emerged of the suffering he endured at the hands of his birth parents.

Jody Simpson and Antony Smith's abuse resulted in Tony having to have both legs amputated and left him fighting for his life when just 41 days old.

The Maidstone couple were both eventually jailed for 10 years in 2018 and have had subsequent attempts to slash their sentences rejected by the courts.

Tony now has a loving home with his parents Paula and Mark Hudgell, who adopted him and launched a campaign, calling for tougher sentences for those who inflict abuse on children.

Paula Hudgell with Tony and MP Tom Tugendhat at parliament
Paula Hudgell with Tony and MP Tom Tugendhat at parliament

Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat introduced 'Tony's Law' last year in the form of the Child Cruelty (Sentences) Bill to the House of Commons, after a petition was presented in parliament, but parliamentary work is now on hold as the nation responds to the coronavirus pandemic.

Broadcasting by video link from the This Morning studio in London, presenters Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby asked how Tony had been getting on at school and the family spoke of his determination to walk on his new prosthetic legs, known as stubbies.

Tony is also learning how to play football.

The presenters teased they had a surprise for him, knowing he was a big football fan and the youngster told them he supports Chelsea.

Frank Lampard then appeared on screen, saying he was happy to hear Tony was a Chelsea fan.

He added: "But more importantly, I know a lot about your strength and bravery and I find it really, really inspiring.

"In these tough times where it's really difficult for everybody, we all need a bit of inspiration and you are certainly that.

"So, my plan is, when the world does become a bit more normal again, when football starts again, I want you to be my number one guest of honour at our training ground, you can come and watch the players, come to my office and watch us train, then bring all your family to Stamford Bridge to bring some of that inspiration and hopefully a win."

Speaking about the Tony's Law campaign, Mrs Hudgell said: "It was you, Phillip, who said '10 years wasn't enough' and I went away and launched a petition.

"With the help of Tom Tugendhat, we presented it to parliament last January and in February he did the first Ten Minute Rule Bill [where an MP makes their case for a new Bill].

Tony Hudgell has developed a passion for football
Tony Hudgell has developed a passion for football

"We are working hard behind the scenes to try and bring in tougher sentences for child cruelty - to bring them in line with GBH with intent, murder, or manslaughter."

The broadcast finished with a message from Mr Tugendhat, praising Tony's courage and the Hudgells' love.

"They've shown what a real family is and why we need Tony's Law to punish those who betray their children so brutally."

He said any law change was 'the least we can do for the most vulnerable."

A fundraising campaign to help Tony with specialist equipment, walking aids and therapy is running online. Donations can be made here.

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