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London - Charlie Gard’s parents were "utterly distraught and heartbroken" after European judges backed the British doctors who said it would be kinder to let the ten-month-old die.

Chris Gard and Connie Yates had reached "the very end of their journey" in their legal fight, a friend said.

Charlie, who has a rare genetic condition, will now die at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London once doctors have removed an artificial ventilator.

His parents had battled to be allowed to take him to America to undergo experimental therapy, but successive courts ruled in favour of Charlie’s British doctors.

Now the European Court of Human Rights has dashed their final hope, and a friend of the family told the Mail: ‘Connie and Chris are absolutely distraught, utterly heartbroken.

"It has ripped their world apart. The agony they have gone through is unimaginable.

"Fortunately they have huge support from a very loving and close family but losing a child is every parent’s nightmare. And for them the agony is more unbearable as they have fought so very hard for treatment they firmly believed would save Charlie’s life." It is likely Charlie’s life support will be withdrawn in the next few days.

The hospital made it clear there was "no rush" and that "every possible support to Charlie’s parents" would be provided.

Miss Yates, 31, and Mr Gard, 32, of Bedfont, South West London, have previously lost battles in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

Their last chance was the European court, based in Strasbourg, France, but its seven judges ruled the parents’ application "inadmissible", adding: "The decision is final." Charlie, who was born on August 4 last year, has a type of mitochondrial disease so rare he is only the 16th sufferer worldwide.

The condition saps energy from organs and muscles, and his lungs are too weak to function without the ventilator.

He is in intensive care at Great Ormond Street where doctors believe nothing can save him, despite his parents finding a US specialist willing to try an experimental drug treatment. The Supreme Court backed the High Court and Court of Appeal which had both accepted evidence that it would be "futile" for Charlie to have further treatment because he has irreversible brain damage and cannot see, hear or move.

His parents are adamant he is growing stronger and showing signs of improvement. They have raised £1.3 million from well-wishers who donated via an online fundraising page to fund the US treatment. It is unclear what will happen to the money.

A hospital spokesman said: ‘Our thoughts are with Charlie’s parents on receipt of this news that we know will be very distressing for them.’