“BIG teddy bear” John Masser will be sadly missed, friends and family said as heartfelt tributes poured in.

The death of the football fan, known as “Chelsea John,” left those who knew him reeling.

Neighbour and friend Sharon Wood said: “John was a Chelsea fan through and through. He was the best neighbour you could ask for and he helped me a lot as I am poorly.

“He never deserved the battering he got. I loved his dog Zimba and his girlfriend Lisa. I am totally devastated.”

Stacey Lockwood, of Basildon, added: “He was a lovely man with a kind heart. He was a big teddy bear and will be sadly missed.”

Tara Palmer, of Canvey, said: “I knew John years ago. He was such a friendly, helpful guy.

“He always looked out for me to get home safe after we’d been clubbing.

“Love and prayers for his family at this time.”

The former James Hornsby School student was employed as a nightclub doorman and cleaner and once worked at the Echo’s offices in Basildon as a cleaner.

Former colleague Alice Ceckatt remembered him as a friendly man.

She said: “He worked with us for a year or so. He was a quiet man, who kept himself to himself, but he was very nice. He was far too young to die.”

Friends also took to Facebook to pay tribute.

Sue Butler posted: “So sad he was a lovely guy always made us laugh. RIP John.”

Gillian Brown said: “So sad, he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Julie Terry said: “RIP John. Known you since we were little kids and know you didn’t deserve this. Thoughts with all the family x.”

Chrissy Springate said: “RIP John. You was a nice funny guy, so sad to hear this news.”

Michelle Foreman said: “RIP John. Known you since we were kids. Our mums use to best buds.”

A relative, who asked not to be named, said: “If you were homeless, he would take his shoes off and hand them straight to you. He was a guy pleading for help for years and he has now lost his life.

“Nobody has the right to take someone else’s life. He could not cope with things anymore. When you have mental health problems you are not in the right frame of mind.”