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Cancer appeal girl, 9, dies

A GIRL OF nine suffering from leukaemia, whose plight touched the hearts of thousands of people across the country after an appeal by the Prime Minister's press secretary, has died.

Ellie Merritt suffered a haemorrhage yesterday and died without having found a matching bone-marrow donor, in spite of a huge response to the appeal.

It is the second tragedy in a matter of years for her mother, Lindsay Nicholson. Ellie's father, John Merritt, a journalist for the Observer, died of leukaemia in 1992. Ellie's grandmother also died of the same bone- marrow condition.

Tony Blair's press secretary, Alastair Campbell, launched an appeal earlier this year to try to find a bone-marrow donor for Ellie. Mr Merritt had been a colleague of Mr Campbell and a close friend.

Mr Campbell said on behalf of the family: "She was a wonderful little girl who everybody hoped was pulling through but, sadly, it was not to be. Lindsay is obviously absolutely shattered."

"There was a quite extraordinary response from members of the public when Ellie's case was publicised and it is obviously tragic that she wasn't able to find a matching donor."

Ellie was being treated for her leukaemia at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital.