Boy who suffered abuse at hands of birth parents takes first steps in new legs

Little battler Tony Hudgell swings into action to take his very first steps – and stride towards a happy new future.

This is a milestone for all parents, but for adoptive mum Paula seeing her brave boy walk is extra special.

Doctors feared four-year-old Tony might never take a step because of the horrific abuse he suffered at the hands of his evil birth parents.

At just 41 days old, the little lad was left with numerous fractures, multiple organ failure and sepsis after he was tortured by Jody Simpson, 24, and Tony Smith, 47.

The medics did not expect the tiny tot to survive, but they battled for six weeks to save him and later had to amputate both of Tony’s legs from below the knee.

But that horror is hard to imagine when you see the beaming little boy now, zooming around on his new legs, decorated in the style of his favourite superhero Spider-Man.

“I want to go this way,” he says confidently, then breaks into a run, veers off the path onto the grass and heads for the playground at his local park in Kings Hill, Kent.

On the way, Tony stops to pick a daisy which he hands to his new mum, before dashing to the slide.

Proud Paula said: “He’s never been able to walk so we didn’t know how stable he would be. But he mastered that walking action very quickly so we remain optimistic.

“They’ve designed the prosthetics to be broader at the bottom.

“They’re very stable and have anti-slip rubber on the soles to make it easier for him to learn.

“Tony’s bones are still in a mess after the abuse. One leg is shorter than the other and when you see him next to other children you notice how short his thigh bones are.

“But he’s using his legs really nicely so we’re keeping everything crossed.”

Tony’s pros­thetics, made for him in Luton, ­consist of two pairs of Lycra leggings, a fibreglass structure and a softer, spongy ­lining which is moulded to perfectly hold the contours of his legs.

Paula said: “Doctors reckon he was born in the right era. Medicine and technology are changing all the time.

“In ten ears, Tony will be 14 and there should be amazing ­advancements in prosthetics by then.”

For now, her little superhero is learning how to use his Spider-Man legs. “Practising on the prosthetics can be hard work,” said Paula.

“Tony is so fast getting around without them that using them can be an inconvenience and sometimes he says he doesn’t want to do it.

“But he can’t see the long-term plan yet – that practising now could mean in the future he can walk and stand with his friends.”

There’s no better place to practise than in the playground where, thanks to the extra weight of his prosthetics, delighted Tony can now tackle the slide legs-first, just like every other kid.

Paula explained: “Usually he goes down head first. He can tip over if he goes legs-first because all his weight and strength are in his top half. But hopefully this will be the start of a brand new life for him.” Simpson and Smith were last year both jailed for ten years – the ­maximum term for child cruelty.

Paula, 51, thinks the sentences should be brought in line with those for adult GBH, murder and ­manslaughter and has been fighting tirelessly to change the law.

She said: “Why should sentences be lower for injuring or killing a ­vulnerable child? It makes no sense.” The Sunday People has been backing her battle all the way. We reported how Simpson had made a bid to be freed early after last year’s court case – an appeal she later dropped.

And last month we told how Paula had been rewarded for all her hard work with the news that Tony would get a law named after him.

MP for Tonbridge and Malling, Tom Tugendhat, has championed the Tony’s Law bill, which passed in the Commons last month, and is now in talks with the Ministry for Justice about the bill, which is due its second reading in Westminster.

Paula recalled: “To hear the words ‘Tony’s Law’ was amazing and very emotional.” The Hudgells are fundraising for disability equipment and to make their house wheelchair accessible for Tony. Go to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/babytony1.

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