Alfie died early Saturday morning after a harrowing legal battle

Alfie Evans, the seriously ill toddler who whose plight moved thousands across the world, died in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Tom Evans, Alfie’s father, said in a Facebook post: “My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 02:30…absolutely heartbroken. I love you my guy.”

Alfie was 23 months old and was in what doctors described as a “semi-vegetative state” due to an undiagnosed neurological condition.

Italy had granted Alfie Evans citizenship in the hope he could be transferred to the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, but UK courts refused, saying a transfer would not be in Alfie’s best interests.

Alder Hey hospital, which had been treating Alfie, removed his ventilator earlier this week against the wishes of Alfie’s parents but with court approval.

He was expected only to survive a few minutes, but lasted five days without ventilation.

Rallies and vigils in support of Alfie took place across the world, and Pope Francis expressed his strong support for the parents.