FRIENDS have paid tribute to a “popular” man who died after being assaulted outside his local pub.

46-year-old Gary Saywell of Glen Road, Walthamstow, died in hospital on Saturday - 12 days after being assaulted following an argument outside the Northcote Arms pub in Grove Green Road, Leytonstone.

A post-mortem on Monday gave the cause of death as a head injury, but no one has yet been charged.

The next of kin have been informed and an inquest is due to be held.

Many customers at the Leytonstone pub have paid tribute to the “friendly” painter and decorator, who was known as “Billy Mitchell” by friends because of his resemblance to that character in BBC1 soap, Eastenders.

David McConville, 45, a taxi driver, of Vicarage Road, Leyton, said he had grown up with Mr Saywell in the former St Paul’s tower block on the Beaumont estate in Leyton.

He said: “He was London born and bred. We lost touch over the years, then he started to come to this pub and adopted it as his local. He was very well-liked and popular and knew everyone here.

“He really looked like Billy Mitchell, so most people called him that.”

Mr Saywell was captain of the pub pool team and was often seen playing pool in the pub.

He was also a dedicated Leeds United football supporter and had the team’s logo tattooed on his arm.

In memory of Mr Saywell, the pub has put a Leeds United t-shirt on the wall of the pub which customers have signed.

Some of the messages, read: “Northcote Legend, RIP Billy”, and “Miss you already. The place won’t be the same without you”.

A regular, who did not want to be named, said everyone is shocked by what happened to Mr Saywell.

He said: "I was so shocked. We have all had arguments, but for something like that to happen is unbelievable.

"He came into the pub at about 6pm and as far as I could tell he wasn't drunk. Then I left and it happened a short time after that."

London Ambulance was called to reports of an attack following an argument at around 8.30pm on February 16.

The victim was taken to Whipps Cross University Hospital before being transferred to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in central London.

He subsequently died in the early hours of Saturday, February 28.

A 29-year-old man was arrested in connection with the assault and was subsequently released on police bail. He was re-arrested yesterday on suspicion of murder and taken to an east London police station where he remains in custody.

Police are still appealing for witnesses.

The man's attacker is a white man, aged about 30 and about 5ft 7ins tall.

Anyone with information is urged to call the incident room on 8345 4142 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.