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five years on

My son’s legs were amputated after his biological parents beat him – this Christmas he performed his first nativity

CHEEKY Tony Hudgell grins at the audience as he proudly speaks his nativity lines - just five years after his evil parents beat him so violently he lost both his legs. 

But now the five-year-old schoolboy - a “total show off” with a “very cheeky character” - is enjoying his first year at school.

 Tony with his mum and dad Paula and Mark
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Tony with his mum and dad Paula and MarkCredit: Oliver Dixon/The Sun

Despite enduring multiple problems as a result of the abuse he suffered - including a permanently dislocated left hip, arthritis, deafness and infections - he attends a mainstream school where he has lots of little friends and loves his teachers. 

And taking to the stage for his nativity is a day his adopted mum Paula Hudgell, 52, from Kent, feared she’d never see after Tony was left close to death suffering from organ failure, numerous fractures and sepsis when he was abused at just weeks old.

He was just 41 days old when he was admitted to hospital with life-threatening injuries caused by his abusive parents and later had his legs amputated.

Jody Simpson, 24, and dad Tony Smith, 47, from Kent, had both denied child cruelty but were eventually convicted and jailed for just 10 years.

 Tony at this year's school nativity play
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Tony at this year's school nativity playCredit: Collect

But since Paula and her husband Mark adopted him after he was released from hospital at four months old he's flourished. 

And, after starting in reception at his local mainstream primary in Kent in September he was chuffed to be given the innkeeper role in the school’s nativity play.

“It was so emotional,” said Paula, who also has seven other children aged 30 to seven. “I know all parents find nativity plays emotional but seeing Tony up there when just a few years earlier he had been so ill - close to death - was amazing.

“I had tears in my eyes as he took to the stage.

 Tony is looking forward to Christmas
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Tony is looking forward to ChristmasCredit: Collect

“The contrast from this year’s Christmas to five Christmases ago, when he was dying in hospital, was astounding.”
She said her son’s naturally cheeky character shone through on stage. “He was his usual cheeky self, wiggling around and grinning at everyone,” she laughed.

“For him to get such a big part felt huge. 

“And when he said his line, ‘I have a stable around the back’, I started to cry.

"He is such a show off.

“Five Christmases ago he was at death’s door - now he is in a nativity play.”

Tony captured the UK’s hearts when it was revealed that, while still a tiny baby his biological parents swung him around so violently by the legs, they were broken in eight places and later he had to have a double amputation.

They then delayed getting treatment for him because they said they had to wait for the plumber to arrive to get the boiler fixed.

 Antony Smith and Jody Simpson, who were convicted of child cruelty
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Antony Smith and Jody Simpson, who were convicted of child crueltyCredit: Kent Police

When they first met him Paula and Mark didn’t know Tony’s heartbreaking backstory, but still wanted to give him a home. 

Learning it, Paula says was horrified. “I can’t believe anyone could do that to a baby - or anyone."

She’s since campaigned for tougher sentences for crimes involving child cruelty, horrified that despite what Tony endured his abusers were jailed for just a decade.

“Tony is such a lively boy,” she explained. “He would have never been able to be himself in that house. He would have died.

 Tony as a newborn baby, before his limbs were amputated
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Tony as a newborn baby, before his limbs were amputatedCredit: Collect

“But sadly, even though he’s exceeded expectations at school and his teachers are amazed by him, his early abuse has left him forever disabled.

“He has an incredibly high pain threshold, he is deaf in his right ear, his hip is permanently dislocated, he has issues with his wrists and he has arthritis.

“But despite this he is the bravest person I know.

“I adore him.”

This year Tony, who despite the age is an uncle to four, will sit down for a big Christmas dinner with his extended family - and will have plenty of presents to unwrap.

Meanwhile his biological parents are still in jail. 

“I’m so glad he is our son,” Paula said. “He’s wonderful.”

Paula and Mark are fundraising for Tony to have improved disability access at their house. Donate at Just Giving.

We previously told how little Tony's parents have fought to get longer jail sentences for people who commit child cruelty offences.

Meanwhile, doctors wanted to end his care because he was so badly beaten.