GAVIN Prior’s family have spoken about the “intelligent” and “very loving man” that existed beneath his “wicked illness”.

The Brighton and Hove Albion fan was born in Shoreham and achieved a 2:1 in English literature at Sheffield University.

He had hopes of becoming a stand-up comedian, a writer, a journalist and a social worker.

He was hoping to write an autobiography about his life and told his nurses and family that he always wanted to do something which involved giving something back to the community.

His father, Richard, said: “He was such an intelligent guy.

“He had this illness, which eventually took over in the end, but beneath it he was a very loving, caring person with a great sense of humour.

“Despite his own problems he always had time to be compassionate.

“He would say simple things like ‘go easy on yourself’ and ‘stay well and happy’ for example.

“Such was the nature of his reaching out in a positive way to others, while trying so hard to confront his own problems, ultimately fighting a losing battle.”

Although Mr Prior lost touch with his friends from school and university, his father said his funeral was packed.

He said: “They may have not been in touch but it was clear people still thought about him and loved him.

“So many people came to his funeral. So many people cared about him and saw the great person that he was underneath.”

In tributes to Gavin by his peers, he was described as unique, funny, clever, well-read and sharp-witted.

They said he was a deep and caring man who made a great impression on those he met.

Despite his ongoing mental struggle and depression, Mr Prior still managed to remain polite to his medical carers.

His support and recovery worker Sophie Cousins, who visited him just before his death, said: “There was one occasion when I went to visit him where he asked me if we could just sit in silence.”

Mr Prior’s brother, Russel, calmly pointed out this was his polite way of telling someone to shut up.

Frances Borrer, his mother, said: “He was a smart, intelligent, kind and very loving man.

“He had a great sense of humour and sense of mischievousness.

“He loved music and played guitar. He wrote songs and poems and was a very reflective soul. He developed a keen interest in astrology but comedy and writing were his passions.”

“He also loved my mother, and enjoyed helping her with her shopping.

“It made him feel useful which I know he always wanted to feel. He wanted to help.”

Mr Prior’s parents said: “Gavin was a brilliant son, grandson, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin and friend and we shall always be so immensely proud and honoured to love him and call him our son.”