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Parents of Bobby Hughes praise Prince William for his love and support

The parents of a boy whose ordeal is believed to have triggered Prince William's mental trauma have spoken of the extraordinary 'love and support' that the future King has given them.

Bobby Hughes was five when he was knocked down by a learner driver while playing with friends outside his house in Saffron Walden, Essex, in March 2017. The driver had accidentally pressed the accelerator instead of the brake when she saw Bobby on the road.

William, who was part of the air ambulance team that raced to the scene, movingly recalls being confronted by Bobby's 'hysterical parents' and how he was affected by the experience.

His crew worked on the youngster – who suffered brain damage and other serious injuries – before William, whose eldest son Prince George was three at the time, helped fly him to hospital.

Weeks later, still dwelling on the accident, William was hit by a sense of despair. 'I felt like the whole world was dying,' he recalls.

He kept in touch with Bobby, now ten, and his family, telling his parents: 'Anything I can ever do for you, don't hesitate to ask me, for Bobby's rehabilitation.'

ORDEAL: Bobby Hughes (pictured) was five when he was knocked down by a learner driver while playing with friends outside his house in Saffron Walden, Essex, in March 2017

Paying tribute to William, Bobby's mother, Carly Hughes, 40, told The Mail on Sunday: 'I think he's amazing, a credit to our country. I can't sing his praises enough.

'I've looked into his eyes and, genuinely, he has got a kind heart. He's a lovely man, amazing. I would be proud to call him my King one day.'

On the eve of Prince Harry's wedding in May 2018, William even found the time to entertain Bobby, Carly and her husband Jeff, 44, at the headquarters of the East Anglian Air Ambulance in Cambridge. Mrs Hughes said: 'When we walked into the room he [William] looked so happy. He was laughing and joking and really lovely. He's so down to earth. We didn't feel like we were talking to the future King.'

Three weeks after the accident, William wrote to the Hugheses – who gave up their jobs to care for their son – saying he wanted them to know he was thinking of them.

He wrote: 'As a father, I can understand the pain, but your son is in the best hands, being worked on by fantastic people... I am sure he will get better.'

Recalling the accident, Mrs Hughes said she remembered seeing William at a community hospital where they had rushed Bobby and how the 'shock and distress' registered across his face.

Later the couple were given the grim news that their son had a five per cent chance of survival. A priest gave him the last rites at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

Pictured: Bobby and his parents with Prince William's East Anglian Air Ambulance team

But against all odds he survived and began to recover – even though at one stage doctors advised his parents they should switch off his life support machine.

Mrs Hughes said: 'I was not a religious person until then, but my faith kept me strong, I prayed daily at the hospital chapel.'

She recalled that when Bobby regained consciousness, all he could do was move his eyes, but gradually, movement started returning to his body.

Bobby will have one more major operation to fit plates on his skull, after which he may only need minor procedures and therapy.

Mrs Hughes said: 'All I now want is for Bobby to grow up, get married and have children. I still want him to lead the normal life he was supposed to lead.'

At the request of Mr and Mrs Hughes, The Mail on Sunday is making a donation to East Anglian Air Ambulance.