TRIBUTES have been paid to a “gentle giant” who has been described as “kind soul” and “all-round lovely guy” by his friends. 

Dean Penson, 41, died on Friday at Southend Hospital, where he had been treated by doctors and nurses since November 30 after falling ill in Thailand. 

The Southend resident initially fell ill while on holiday in Thailand and spent ten days in hospital where doctors feared he had leukaemia – sparking a fundraiser to try and help get him home. 

Ben Page, 41, who flew to Thailand to be with his best friend and spent £1,600 on treatment, including two blood transfusions, remained by Dean’s side throughout his illness.

Devastatingly, Ben announced on Facebook over the weekend that Dean had passed away. 

His next-door neighbour Rachel Warren, 32, also from Southend, said: “Dean was not only my next-door neighbour, but he was also a really good friend of mine.

“He was the kindest, sweetest, funniest person I knew.

“I’m utterly heartbroken that he has gone. I’ll truly miss him so much.

“Gone but never forgotten. Fly high, Dean.”

Echo: Kindest soul - Dean PensonKindest soul - Dean Penson (Image: Ben Page)

Jakub Perzyski, 33, from Westcliff, previously lived with Dean and admitted he will “always be grateful” for his support.

He said: “He was a gentle giant, the kindest soul I’ve ever met.

“I lived with him during the Covid lockdown because I’d just moved to the UK from Poland for work when the pandemic began.

“He helped me a lot, and I will always be incredibly grateful to him.

“It’s so sad that Dean is no longer here, and my thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

Angus Browne, who owns Brownes Thames Estuary Boat Trips, knew Dean through Ben, who owns the Zero2Hero boxing business.

He said: “Dean was very down to earth and just an all-round lovely guy who was great to be around.

“It’s devastating he is no longer with us, and the loyalty and kindness Dean and Ben showed each other was just so sweet and lovely.

“My thoughts are with Ben, his family and friends at this tough time.”