Alfie Evans, the 23-month-old at the center of a U.K. legal battle, died on Saturday — just five days after being taken off life support

Alfie Evans, the 23-month-old terminally ill British boy at the center of a headline-making legal battle, has died just five days after he was taken off life support, his parents announced.

“Our baby boy grew his wings tonight at 2:30 am,” wrote his mother Kate James, 20, on Facebook early Saturday. “We are heartbroken. Thank you everyone for all your support 💙”

His father, 21-year-old Thomas Evans, also wrote on Facebook, “My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 02:30 😥😢😥😢😥 absolutely heartbroken💔😭 I LOVE YOU MY GUY💙💙💙👨‍👦👨‍👦.”

Credit: Facebook

Alfie initially survived in the days after medical staff at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital cut off his life assistance, Evans said. Alfie continued to live despite being in a “semi-vegetative state” as a result of a mystery degenerative neurological condition, surprising doctors who said further attempts to treat the boy would be futile, according to the BBC. Alfie initially survived on his own for six hours on Monday before doctors provided the child with oxygen and hydration.

“We wish to express our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to Alfie’s family at this extremely distressing time,” Alder Hey Children’s Hospital said in a statement. “All of us feel deeply for Alfie, Kate, Tom and his whole family and our thoughts are with them. This has been a devastating journey for them and we would ask that their privacy and the privacy of staff at Alder Hey is respected.”

Alfie Evans court case
Credit: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

The hospital also announced a makeshift memorial for the boy.

“We feel sure people will wish to place tributes to Alfie along with messages of support for Kate and Tom,” Alder Hey Hospital said. “To ensure there is sufficient space for these and to ensure the safety of all those who wish to visit, we have secured a suitable place in Springfield Park situated next to Alder Hey Hospital. This is on the advice of Merseyside Police.”

Evans and James have been in a lengthy battle to keep the ailing toddler on life support. Alfie has been at the hospital since December 2016.

However, a series of court rulings sided with doctors who said there was no hope for the boy, according to the Washington Post. The BBC reported that doctors argued that keeping Alfie on a ventilator would be “futile,” “unkind and inhumane.” Most recently, the European Court of Human Rights rejected the parents’ request to keep doctors at the Liverpool hospital from taking Alfie off of the assistance.

“I faught (sic) hard in court for my son because I know what’s right!!” the grieving father wrote in a Facebook post after the court’s decision. “And look where we are now my son is still ALIVE AFTER OVER 10 horrendous scary heartbreaking hours.”

Save Alfie Evans Protest, Bonn Square, Oxford, UK - 21 Apr 2018
Credit: Geoffrey Swaine/REX/Shutterstock

The human rights court’s decision upheld that of Britain’s Supreme Court, in which justices said it would be pointless to take Alfie to Rome for treatment.

Still, the head of the Vatican’s Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital said the Italian defense ministry had a plane ready and waiting to take Alfie to Italy for treatment if the additional Tuesday hearing grants the family’s appeal, according to the Associated Press.

On Monday, Pope Francis even voiced his support for Alfie.

“Moved by the prayers and immense solidarity shown little Alfie Evans, I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted,” the Pope tweeted.

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In a fundraiser for Alfie, the family wrote that he was born “healthy and on time” in May 2016. However, the parents soon noticed Alfie was not accomplishing common milestones like lifting his head, maintaining eye contact and eating with his hands, according to the Just Giving fundraising page. Doctors initially believed the boy was simply a “late developer,” but became concerned when he began experiencing spasms and developed an infection.

The situation is similar to that of another London couple, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, whose son, Charlie, died in July after a lengthy court battle to treat the terminally ill 11-month-old baby. Earlier this year, Takesha Thomas and Lanre Haastrup lost their son, Isaiah, after a judge ruled that doctors could stop providing intensive care treatment to the boy who suffered brain damage.