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Gary sends Luke back home for being too young

Gary Barlow sent a schoolboy packing from this year's X Factor show after claiming he has his best interest at heart.

The Take That star was joined by fellow band member Robbie Williams in Los Angeles for judges' houses in last night's episode -- and decided not to put 16-year-old Lucas through to the live finals, over fears he is too young to cope with the pressure.

"Luke is too young - it was too much for him, no wonder he cracked," he said.

"Sixteen is too young to be in a competition of this kind of pressure," he insisted -- despite the fact that mate Robbie was that age when Take That formed.

Crushed Luke has wowed the celebrity panel with his talented performances, but failed to impress the Boys mentor after he fluffed his lines and sang off key in LA, when singing for a spot in the last four of the category.

"If it was my son or daughter I don't think I'd be pushing them that early," Robbie added. "Eighteen or 19 maybe -- you've been anonymous and done your fun things."

Luke was said to be lonely and fragile without his parents while abroad -- and parenting group Netmums have protested, saying that he should have been accompanied by a family member.

"People like Luke are being treated by the show as adults, but they're not," said group founder Siobhain Freegard.

Luke's parents Sheena and Gavin are 'heartbroken' after seeing their son sob into the cameras -- but claim he is ready to handle the X Factor pressure.

"He can cope fine with everything the shows throws at him -- this is his dream and it means a lot to him."

hnews@herald.ie