The vile football yobs who taunted Sunderland fans with a picture of Bradley Lowery are brothers, it has been revealed.
Little Bradley captured the nation’s heart during his battle with cancer, but tragically died aged just six in 2017.
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He was a mascot for his beloved Sunderland and, in the months before his death, led England out at Wembley alongside his hero – former Black Cats striker Jermain Defoe.
Pictures circulated on X, formerly Twitter, showing two men laughing at the Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland match at Hillsborough on Friday, with one of them holding up a picture of Bradley to the camera.
It has now emerged the two yobs were brothers Dale and Drew Houghton.
Dale’s former employer JRI Orthopaedics condemned his actions and claimed he “has not been employed” there for “some time”.
“JRI want to make clear that we do not condone the posts and images that has caused so much upset to so many people,” the statement read.
“We wish to confirm that Dale Houghton is a former employee of JRI Orthopaedics and has not been employed by the business for some time.”
In a post on Facebook, the Bradley Lowery Foundation, a charity set up by the boy’s mother Gemma, said: “This is so sad for me to see – whatever happened to ‘cancer has no colours’, let alone respect for a family that lost their baby to cancer?”
A statement from the family read: “Today has not been the Saturday I was expecting, after receiving multiple calls and messages regarding a photo circulating on social media.
“I have received a visit from the Durham Police to check that I am ok, and they have notified myself and Carl that Yorkshire police are now dealing with the situation and taking it very serious.
“Understandably people are angry, if I wasn’t so upset I’d be angry to.
“Bradley was and still is well loved in the football community, which I’m enternaly [sic] grateful for, but i must ask that everyone lets the police do their job, and deal with the low lives.
“I want to thank Sheffield Wednesday, for their quick condemnation, and the support their fans have shown.
“Like we always say, cancer has no colours, and as we all know it can affect anyone at any time.
“Thank you all for your kind words, it has really helped and let’s do what we do best at the Bradley Lowery Foundation and turn this negative into a positive. Let’s share this beautiful iconic photo.”
A spokesperson for Sheffield Wednesday described their actions as “outrageous and deplorable” on X, while South Yorkshire Police said it was working with the club to identify the men.
“We are working to investigate public order offences following the Sheffield Wednesday V Sunderland fixture yesterday,” a police spokesman said.
“We will be working with the club to identity those responsible.
“Anyone with information is asked to get in touch online or by calling 101.”
Sheffield Wednesday said in a statement: “We are aware of the images circulating and have launched an immediate investigation together with South Yorkshire Police.
“We roundly condemn this outrageous and utterly deplorable behaviour.
“We can only apologise for the undoubted distress caused to Bradley’s family and friends.”
Young Bradley was a regular Sunderland mascot, holding the hand of his idol Defoe.
In June 2017, he penned an emotional tribute to his “best pal” Bradley – saying his favourite part of playing for Sunderland was walking onto the pitch with the brave youngster.
Defoe said he was heartbroken when he discovered the brave child could only have weeks to live.
In the wake of Bradley’s death social media became flooded with messages filled with blue heart emojis in a show of support for him.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission.