A homeless man who was battered to death was just weeks away from getting off the streets, The Argus can reveal.

Lee Williams has been named as the victim of the vicious attack on Hove seafront.

The 45-year-old’s body was found covered by a blanket by charity workers from Brighton’s homeless Project Antifreeze on Monday evening.

Mr Williams, originally from Hastings, told The Argus in November that he had battled his alcohol addiction to save money.

He had been living in the arches near Kingsway in Hove, which he called the caves, for about seven months after having to move off land he was living on in a caravan when his landlady was taken into care.

He said: “I spend my days drinking, wandering around and going to day centres.

“But I have got a month’s rent and a deposit saved up. It’s been difficult, especially with an alcohol problem.

“I want to get into a flat, off the streets and into the warmth.”

A close friend who took Mr Williams and his friends food said he was just three weeks away from moving off the streets.

She added: “I saw one of the other guys who lives in the arches in town and he’s devastated.

“A lot of people see the homeless and think they are trash but actually they are such lovely people.

“They were like members of your family, or a neighbour or friends. They are just down on their luck.”

A post mortem yesterday evening revealed Mr Williams died from head and facial injuries caused as a result of being hit by a heavy object.

He also had serious injuries to his body.

A police spokeswoman said: “This was a sustained, violent attack.”

Police have been searching the sea and will continue examining the shoreline for evidence until the end of the week.

They have not yet found a murder weapon.

Detective Chief Inspector Ian Pollard, from Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, said: “A large number of items were found in the alcove where our victim was living.

“These included food, drink and lots of bedding and clothing each of which has to be forensically examined.

“For this reason, the tents will remain on the pitch and putt course until the end of the week.

“Once again, I appreciate the cooperation and patience of local residents and would encourage them to speak to our officers if they have any information or any |concerns about what has happened.”

Detective Chief Inspector Ian Pollard who is leading the investigation said: “Lee suffered a brutal, vicious and sustained attack causing multiple injuries to his face, head and body.

"We need to find whoever did this to him and bring them to justice - they should not be allowed to get away with this.

"Please get in touch if you have any information about Lee or his attacker(s).

"I know some parts of the community may not feel comfortable contacting the police but I can assure you that your call will be dealt with in strict confidence.

“We believe Lee was living in Hove for about a year and had a few friends within the homeless community but on the whole he was quite a private person.

"He was an alcoholic and his home for the last year was an archway under the promenade that looked onto the pitch and putt course.

"He was a regular at the Thursday night soup kitchen next to the Peace Statue adjacent to Hove Lawns and bought his beer from the Londis convenience store next to the Alibi pub on Kingsway.

“The time of the attack has not been established but we believe he may have been last seen on Sunday (10 February) morning.

"Someone, somewhere, has information that could help us catch the person responsible for this terrible crime.

"Did you know Lee? Did you see him prior to his body being found? Do you know of any reason why someone would want to kill him?

"Please call 101 quoting Op Depot or alternatively leave an anonymous message with the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

Lee was 5’ 9” of slim build with short brown hair and a brown beard and had a distinctive barbed wire tattoo across his collar bone.

Do you know Mr Williams? Email Kimberly.middleton@theargus.co.uk or call 01273 544511.

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