Police investigate after football fans appear to mock death of Bradley Lowery

<span>Photograph: Lee Smith/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Lee Smith/Reuters

Police are investigating after two Sheffield Wednesday fans appeared to mock the death of football mascot Bradley Lowery during a match against his favourite team.

The six-year-old Sunderland fan, who struck up a close friendship with the team’s striker Jermain Defoe after being diagnosed with neuroblastoma, died in 2017 having helped raise more than £1m for charity.

Related: Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery dies aged six after cancer fight

Bradley was a mascot for Sunderland several times, with fans chanting his name at games and holding banners saying: “Cancer has no colours.” He and Defoe also led England out at Wembley for a World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

Pictures circulated on X, formerly Twitter, appeared to show two men laughing during Sheffield Wednesday’s match against Sunderland at Hillsborough on Friday, with one of them holding up a picture of Bradley to the camera.

A spokesperson for Sheffield Wednesday described their actions as “outrageous and deplorable”, while South Yorkshire police said it was working with the club to identify the men.

Bradley’s mother Gemma Lowery wrote on X: “Understandably people are angry, if I wasn’t so upset I’d be angry too. Bradley was and still is well loved in the football community, which I’m eternally grateful for, but I must ask that everyone lets the police do their job … I want to thank Sheffield Wednesday for their quick condemnation …. Like we always say, CANCER HAS NO COLOURS.”

A spokesperson for South Yorkshire police said: “We are working to investigate public order offences following the Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland fixture yesterday. 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.”

Separately, a football fan has been charged with a public order offence after allegedly making offensive comments about the Munich air disaster in a video circulating on social media. The footage appeared online after Newcastle beat Manchester City at St James’ Park on Wednesday, according to Northumbria police.

The 41-year-old man, from North Shields, will appear at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne magistrates court on 18 October, according to the Crown Prosecution Service. Police said he was bailed with conditions not to enter an exclusion zone around St James’ Park on match days.

A Newcastle spokesperson said: “Tragedy-related chanting and gesturing is completely unacceptable and Newcastle United is committed to working with authorities and the wider football community to eradicate it.”