Football yob who mocked Bradley Lowery is branded a ‘loser’ by ex-colleague who reveals he was sacked from fire safety job over his ‘conduct’ – as lout faces jail for waving photo of cancer victim at Sunderland match while high on cocaine
- Dale Houghton was pictured laughing as he held up a picture of Bradley Lowery
The football fan who mocked Bradley Lowery by holding up an image of him while laughing in a bid to goad Sunderland fans has been branded a ‘loser’ by an ex-colleague who said he was fired over his ‘conduct’.
Dale Houghton, 31, faces jail after he yesterday pleaded guilty to a public order offence by showing rival fans an enlarged picture on his phone of Bradley, who died from a rare cancer, neuroblastoma, in 2017.
Bradley became loved by the nation and was best friends with footballer Jermain Defoe, who paid tribute to his ‘inspirational’ young friend after the incident, adding: ‘We love and miss you Brad. Love, your best friend forever.’
The six-year-old even became Sunderland’s mascot and managed to raise £1million through his charity in his short life – before Houghton’s disgraceful behaviour at the club’s match against Sheffield Wednesday on Friday.
The football yob, who was sacked from his job over the weekend as a result of his behaviour at the match, previously worked as Fire Safety Officer for a company called Fire Structure in Sheffield, before he was sacked over his poor ‘conduct and demeanour’.
After the image circulated online on Sunday, a spokesperson for the company told MailOnline: ‘We sacked him because of his conduct and demeanour.
The actions of Dale Houghton (left) who mocked the death of mascot Bradley Lowery during a match against his favourite team were ‘utterly deplorable’, a judge has said
Sunderland mascot Bradley died in 2017 after he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called neuroblastoma when he was just 18 months old
‘He was not a responsible employee, he was hard to get on with, was never on time and didn’t do the job properly.
‘The guy was a bit of a loser so we decided to cut ties with him as soon as we could.
READ MORE: Sheffield Wednesday supporters raise over £16k in just two days for the Bradley Lowery Foundation after two fans mocked six-year-old Sunderland fan’s death from rare cancer
‘He was only with us for around two months but in that time we realised that he was not somebody we wanted around us.
‘He actually contacted us about five months ago asking if we had any openings but there was no way we were having him back.’
The spokesperson condemned Houghton’s actions at the weekend as they added: ‘Everyone at our company is disgusted by Houghton’s actions as is the rest of the country. We don’t understand how anybody could behave in such a despicable way.’
It came after Jermain Defoe yesterday said how he was ‘appalled’ by Houghton’s actions as he described Bradley as ‘one of the most inspirational children this world has ever seen’.
Defoe told MailOnline: ‘I’m appalled and saddened by the actions of the individual in question. My thoughts at this time go out to Gemma and Carl [Bradley’s parents], who shouldn’t have to deal with incidents like this, but rather be praised for the amazing work they are doing with the Bradley Lowery Foundation in their son’s memory.
‘I urge the public to stand behind the family and continue support the Foundation and its projects. Bradley was one of the most inspirational children this world has ever seen, and he will never stop inspiring us.
‘We love and miss you Brad. Love, your best friend forever.’
Appearing at Sheffield’s Magistrates’ Court on Monday, Houghton confirmed his name, address and date of birth before admitting causing harassment, alarm and distress.
District Judge James Gould condemned his ‘utterly deplorable’ actions and warned all sentence options were open, including jail.
The court heard Houghton, a window fitter, had lost his job as a result of his actions and was facing a lengthy ban from attending football matches.
Prosecutor Jade Short told Sheffield Magistrates’ Court that Houghton had caused a ‘huge public revulsion’ and had clearly found it ‘enjoyable banter’ as he was smiling throughout.
She added that Houghton, who can also expect a lengthy football banning order, had made a ‘full and frank admission’ to police after his arrest.
Bradley’s mother Gemma branded Houghton’s actions ‘unforgivable’. In a victim impact statement read to the court, she said: ‘This image made me feel so many emotions. I find it hard to put into words.
‘It is not just disrespectful to Bradley but also to other people who are going through the emotional trauma of dealing with cancer.
‘This image portrays negatively. I feel upset that these two men used this image to get a reaction from Sunderland fans. It was unforgivable. I have nothing but loving memories of Bradley.’
Defending Houghton, Connie Combs said her client had felt ‘disgusted’ by his own behaviour.
‘There was a lot of mutual goading between the Sunderland and Sheffield Wednesday fans leading up to his deplorable decision to show the picture.
‘He immediately realised he was totally out of line.’
Jermain Defoe has said he was ‘appalled’ by the sick football yob who is facing jail for mocking cancer victim Bradley Lowery after he yesterday admitted he was high on cocaine
Houghton (pictured), from Rotherham, was bailed and will be sentenced on November 17
Houghton was bundled into his parents’ car after leaving the court yesterday
Vito Mannone (right) and Jermain Defoe (centre) pictured with Bradley Lowery on his 6th birthday party at Welfare Park, Blackhall on May 19, 2017 in Peterlee
Bradley’s mother Gemma (right) branded Houghton’s actions ‘unforgivable’. In a victim impact statement read to the court, she said: ‘This image made me feel so many emotions. I find it hard to put into words. It is not just disrespectful to Bradley but also to other people who are going through the emotional trauma of dealing with cancer’
Jermaine Defoe of England and mascot Bradley Lowery line up before the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between England and Lithuania at Wembley on March 26, 2017
Bradley pictured with Jermain Defoe opening presents in his hospital bed
She said his actions were ‘totally out of character’ with his only previous offence being an unrelated matter which resulted in a fine.
The court was also read a statement from Sheffield Wednesday’s chief operating officer Liam Dooley.
It said the club had supported the police investigation and ‘wholly condemn the outrageous and utterly deplorable behaviour.’
Sunderland fan Bradley captured the nation’s heart during his battle with neuroblastoma. Fewer than 100 children in the UK are diagnosed with it each year.
He was a mascot for his beloved club and, in the months before his death, led England out at Wembley alongside former Black Cats striker Jermain Defoe.
In his short life, the Sunderland fan earned the love and admiration of millions worldwide and raised more than £1million through his charity Bradley’s Fight.
Bradley, from Hartlepool, County Durham, had been in and out of hospital for surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and intensive care treatments in the year leading to his death.
Touched by his story, the nation came together in a bid to initially cure his illness – with more than £1million being raised for his official charity, Bradley’s Fight, including large donations from several top flight clubs.
He was also named as the 41st runner in the Grand National and had a charity single soar up the charts.
Houghton, from Rotherham, was bailed and will be sentenced on November 17.
Dale Houghton (pictured), 31, admitted a public order offence at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court following an incident at Sheffield Wednesday’s clash with Sunderland on Friday
Houghton, from Rotherham, was bailed and will be sentenced on November 17
Dale Houghton is taken out of the back of Sheffield Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to a public order offence
Houghton admitted a public order offence at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court following an incident at Sheffield Wednesday’s clash with Sunderland on Friday.
Judge James Gould gave Houghton bail on condition that he does not attend any football matches or go within a mile of Hillsborough stadium on match days.
He also ordered that he attend a drug intervention programme.
Houghton’s former employer JRI Orthopaedics said that it condemned his actions which have ’caused upset to so many people’. The company said he had not been employed by the business for some time.
‘We roundly condemn this completely outrageous and utterly deplorable behaviour. We can only apologise for the undoubted distress caused to Bradley’s family and friends.’
In a statement, the firm added: ‘JRI is aware that a former member of staff has recently been arrested in relation to a serious public order offense at a football match.
‘The nature of these allegations is abhorrent to all of us here at JRI, and we wish to make it clear that this person left our employment over 3 years ago, has no continuing association with us and we do not in any way condone such appalling behaviour.’
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