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Thursday, January 7, 1999 Published at 15:15 GMT


UK

Brain disease claims Gladiator's baby

Judy Simpson is being comforted by her family

The baby of former Gladiator and Olympic athlete Judy Simpson has died of meningitis.

Baby Joan Mary Simpson died last week after being struck down by the disease, the star's athletics club has confirmed.

The baby, who was less than a year old, is one of more than a dozen children to die as the deadly brain disease sweeps the country.

The 34-year-old Commonwealth gold medallist - known to millions as Nightshade in the Gladiators TV show - and her athletics coach husband Robin, were being comforted by family.

Friend Andy Paul, chief administrator at Birmingham-based Birchfield Harriers athletics club, said the couple, who live in North Birmingham, were devastated by the loss of their little girl.

Funeral

Mr Paul said: "This is extremely sad and the whole of the club is thinking about Judy and Robin at this time.

"The baby died of meningitis on Wednesday."

Joan Mary's funeral was due to take place some time next week, he added.

Robin Simpson - who married Judy when he was her trainer - is employed at the leisure department at Birmingham City Council.

A council spokeswoman said: "Robin is on leave at the moment. This is very, very sad."

Jamaican-born Judy, who quit the Gladiators team in 1997 after a cancer scare, represented Britain in the European, World, Commonwealth and Olympic championships as a heptathlete.

The six-foot star is also a martial arts black belt and a campaigner for the Women's Sports Foundation and the British Sports Association for the Disabled.



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