Gary Lineker's son taunted by Twitter troll over childhood cancer battle
Gary Lineker says he felt "physically sick" when an anonymous internet user taunted his son about his childhood battle with cancer.
The former Leicester City star and his son George this week became victims of "trolling" – where people make insulting anonymous comments on social networking sites.
An unknown Twitter user sent a message to George Lineker in which he called him "leukaemia boy" and wrote "pity ya didn't die".
George was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia weeks after he was born in 1992.
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He had eight months of chemotherapy at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital and is now clear of the disease.
The troll added further insults toward George and then his father.
The exchange – similar to the online abuse directed at Olympic diver Tom Daley – took place on Tuesday.
The former Leicester City and England star later shared – or re-tweeted – the messages to his 900,000 followers.
Gary, who is presenting the BBC's Olympics coverage, said the messages had made him feel "physically sick" but that his son would rise above it.
He added later, after a number of people contacted him to express their revulsion at the abuser: "Don't worry, George doesn't let it bother him. It's wrong, though, it really is."
The abuser's Twitter account was closed soon after the three messages were sent to the Linekers.
It was unclear last night whether the matter had been brought to the attention of the police.
The Linekers recently gave their backing to a campaign by Leicestershire police officer Rik Basra to encourage people to sign up as potentially life-saving blood stem cell donors.
Inspector Basra had surgery at Leicester Royal Infirmary on Christmas Eve after a worldwide search for a suitable stem cell donor ended in success.
Rik, a married father of two, is recovering at home.
The 53-year-old said yesterday: "I don't know why people think they can say these things.
"The things said to Gary and his son were disgusting.
"You would think all the publicity around the Tom Daley case would have taught them you just can't say these things about someone, but they clearly didn't listen."
His wife Kas said: "This is so personal to us because Gary helped our campaign to encourage people to sign up as donors at the very beginning.
"I heard the things this person said about Gary and his son and I could not believe someone could say those things. It's beyond belief."
A teenager was cautioned this week for mocking Olympic diver Tom Daley on Twitter, accusing him of letting his father down by failing to win a medal. Daley's father died of cancer last year.
Also this week, BBC presenter Helen Skelton closed her account after she was targeted by trolls.
Dr Paul Reilly, a media and communications expert at the University of Leicester, said: "People tweet abusive things and think they won't be held accountable because they have used pseudonyms, but that clearly isn't the case, as recent cases have proved.
"Social networking does bring celebrities, politicians and sports people a degree closer to their fans and supporters – but it also brings them closer to people who are just the opposite."
Gary said this morning via Twitter that the troll responsible for the tweets had apologised and that the apology was accepted.
Gary tweeted: “Hear the twitter troll has said sorry. We accept that apology. I'm sure he will learn from his idiocy. No need for this to go further IMO."