Loud applause broke out at a vigil for a stabbing victim who was known as the “flower man of Islington”.
Tony Eastlake, 55, died from a knife wound after being attacked in Islington, north London, on Saturday just before 5.30pm.
A crowd of family, friends, customers, passers-by and neighbours gathered for a vigil at the flower stall near Essex Road station, where he had worked since he was 14.
The applause was led by friend Jody Graber, who told wellwishers: “This has been a massive trauma for our community. It should not have happened.
“This is for Tony Eastlake – the loveliest man who could sell you a bunch of flowers.”
He said Mr Eastlake was known by everyone in the community, including those who just passed by on the bus, and he was a good friend.
To gentle laughter Mr Graber recalled that Mr Eastlake once refused to sell a bunch of flowers to a customer on Valentine’s Day because he thought the occasion was a “con”.
Mr Graber led a chorus of “there’s only one Tony Eastlake” before the crowd released blue balloons into the warm evening sky.
Tony Burke, who lives nearby, said: “He was such a lovely man. He was not just the flower man of Islington, he was a friend. I will miss him terribly.
“He would not let me pay for the flowers for my father’s funeral. I had to force him to take the money. He worked at that stall for 40 years. He always had a smile for everyone.”
The Metropolitan Police said witnesses recalled seeing Mr Eastlake in “an altercation” with another man before the assault.
In a statement, his family said: “Our hearts are broken forever at the loss of such a very special man.
“A man who was loved by everybody in the Islington community, who is remembered as kind and caring and always laughing, but most importantly, a father who leaves behind a devastated family, Lisa, Pauline, and his only daughter and best friend Paige, who he adored.
“Tony worked on the flower stall on Essex Road since he was 14 years old and was there through rain or shine, a smiling and friendly face to so many of us.”
Mr Eastlake’s family called on anyone who might have information to speak to police.
A post-mortem examination is due to take place in the coming days. No arrests have been made.
Detective Chief Inspector Vicky Tunstall said: “We have a dedicated team of officers working around the clock to find the person or people responsible and I would like to hear from anybody who could help our investigation.
“I am particularly keen to hear from people who were in Halliford Road or Ecclesbourne Road between 5.20pm and 5.25pm. Did you see Tony? Or did you witness an altercation, or see anyone running away?”
Ms Tunstall said officers were particularly keen to hear from people living in the houses and flats between Ecclesbourne Road, Halliford Road and Essex Road who may have private CCTV.
She also urged drivers with dashcams who may have been in the area to check their footage.
“Lastly, I would like to hear from those within the community who may have information about why this murder has taken place,” she said.
“We are looking at several possible motives and I am keeping an open mind as to the circumstances behind the attack. Information given to police will be treated in the strictest confidence.”
Many locals paid tribute to Mr Eastlake on the Islington Community Group on Facebook.
Francis O’Brien said: “Such sad news, my thoughts are with Tony’s family and loved ones.
“Tony had a kind heart, served our community for a number of years and always put a smile on the faces of people across Islington. He was not just a local businessman, but a friend to many.”
Andres Paniagua Toro said: “What a very sad day, the community has lost a great human being who helped many people daily with his beautiful smile and willingness to listen to their woes.
“Tony would always make me smile every morning on my way to work.”
Elsa Smurthwate posted: “How very very tragic. RIP fella, a true islingtonian and a man who also had time to smile and say hello. Him and his stall have literally been one of the few things that stood the test of time x. I hope the council would consider his stall to be left as a shrine in his memory.”
Garry Clowes said: “God rest Tony, always enjoyed pulling up for a chat and a cuppa. London’s slowly being crushed.”