THE pastor who prayed at the bedside of a rough sleeper who subsequently died after being attacked in the city centre has led a vigil in his honour.

Andrew O’Connell, 54, was sleeping rough when he was attacked in Pavilion Gardens on August 7. He died in hospital.

Speaking to a large crowd at the Clock Tower, Brighton, pastor Andrew Ramage said he and the victim’s family were “furious” and believed the killing was an “avoidable death”.

The distressed family cried and hugged each other as those gathered observed a one-minute silence to remember Mr O’Connell.

Police have charged a homeless man, Sergio Lemori, with the murder of Mr O’Connell, but the 32-year-old denies the charge.

Pastor Ramage described Mr O’Connell as “instantly likeable” and said the rough sleeper had arrived in Brighton just before the annual Pride event.

He said: “I walked into that hospital room and I prayed over Andrew while he was still alive, but he tragically died the following morning.

“I met him about a week beforehand.

“He was a lovely person, one of those people that were instantly likeable.

“You could just talk to him and he was funny.

A visibly upset rough sleeper attending the vigil said he had met Mr O’Connell during his short time in Brighton and that the incident had left him shocked and saddened.

He said: “It’s just unbelievable.

“I had only known him a week but he was such a nice guy.”

“I just so shocked that this has happened and we’re here doing this to pay tribute to him.”

Another street sleeper and former veteran who has been living on Brighton’s streets for four years said the increase in violence has left the homeless community “terrified”.

Pastor Ramage said he was angry that not enough was being done to help those living on the streets and that the death of Mr O’Connell has renewed his personal devotion to help those sleeping rough.

He said: “It makes me absolutely furious.

“The first few drafts of the speech my wife vetoed because I couldn’t actually talk about it without getting so angry I would start swearing.

“Speaking to the family has re-energised what I’ve been trying to do.”

Among those paying their respects at the noon vigil yesterday were campaigner for the homeless Jim Deans and Emma Daniel, the chairwoman of the neighbourhoods, communities and equalities committee.

Well-wishers attending the vigil were asked to donate sleeping bags, clothes, and food instead of taking flowers. A food kitchen was run after the vigil for the city’s homeless community.