TRIBUTES have been paid to a well-known South Ockendon man who died following an operation at Basildon Hospital.

Steve Merrill, 53, passed away on Father’s Day. It’s believed he suffered a haemorrhage after undergoing an operation for bowel cancer the week before.

Mr Merrill was well-known in Thurrock for his wedding video business, his time compering and DJing at the Circus Tavern, and his regular appearances as a contestant on the BBC TV show Robot Wars.

His wife Lisa, 43, said: “He absolutely loved life and he was always thinking up new ideas for business ventures.

“He was a complete showman, it was in his blood. His time compering at the Circus Tavern just made him that way, he introduced some really big names, such as the Three Degrees and Shirley Bassey.”

Mr Merrill, who has a 15-year-old son, Louis, with Lisa, was also the compere for the annual Thurrock Community Chest prize draw, and was the director of sales at Orsett Hall for a short while.

Hotel director, Alan Barnard, said: “Steve had a long association with the Orsett Hall and was extremely well liked.

“He was a big help during the relaunch of the hotel.

“He will be sorely missed by everyone here.”

Thurrock mayor Charles Curtis also paid tribute to Mr Merrill, who used to be his neighbour.

He said: “Steve was a really nice fella and always very helpful when it came to charity events. If he couldn’t help you with something, he always knew someone who could. It’s really sad news.”

Mr Merrill was a regular contestant on Robot Wars during the last three years of the show with the robot he helped build, Sir Chromalot.

His team were famed for their show stealing entrances, in dinner suits, or by lorry.

Mr Merrill’s connection with the show saw him go on to organise a big robot battle at Lakeside Shopping Centre, as well as organising egg buggy events and robot building competitions at schools in Thurrock.