THE little brother of a "courageous" young woman who died shortly after wedding her childhood sweetheart had his long hair shaved off in her memory.

Mother-of-two Vicky Smith, of Shildon, died just days before turning 26 in July last year following a gruelling cancer battle of nearly three years.

A trained hairdresser, the bride of five months was growing her hair for charity having already donated her beloved locks to The Prince's Trust.

Her brother, John Luke Atkinson, decided to grow his hair in aid of charity too and pledged to continue to do so for a year following her death on July 26.

In the anniversary month of her death, the ten-year-old braved the clippers in front of fellow pupils at St John's CE Primary School who took part in a 'crazy hair day' in his honour.

Speaking at the event on Friday, John Luke said: "Before Vicky died she was also growing her hair for charity. I was growing it anyway but when she died I decided to keep growing it and have been growing it for a year.

"My mum was telling me about the cancer research charities and we had the option of two charities. This year I'm doing is for Teenage Cancer Trust and I will do it next year for Cancer Has No Colours."

Mrs Smith, who married husband Brendon Smith in February last year, had held her head high through years of suffering which saw her fight against lung cancer twice before receiving a terminal diagnosis weeks before her death.

Childhood neighbour and family friend, Sharrna Carlyle performed the official cutting and shaving duty in front of the school, John Luke's mother, brother, grandmother and friends.

Mrs Smith and John Luke's mother Tina Atkinson, 47, said: "I'm extremely proud and emotional. It was a bit of a joint decision to do this.

"He (John Luke) didn't want anybody to cut his hair at first because she cut it and pretty much cut everybody's hair.

"When she first lost her hair she donated it to the The Prince's Trust. Hair was her thing. Sharrna was the nearest person to do it.

"I'm really proud of the way the school has backed it too."

The school's 'crazy hair day' was the idea of teaching assistant Lisa Turnbull, who has provided support to John Luke.

She said: "We spent a lot of time together when Vicky was poorly. He decided beforehand he was going to grow his hair and wanted to take it on and do this.

"He's been fabulous. It's selfless and that's what our children have been too.

"It's in memory of his big sister and we've been doing a lot of things about why he did it."

Thanks to sponsorship for John Luke's head shave, donations for the 'crazy hair day' and an Easter raffle, the school has raised £625 for the Teenage Cancer Trust.