Published: 16:00, 05 July 2021
| Updated: 17:51, 05 July 2021
More than £4,000 has been raised to help fund the funeral of a popular magician tragically discovered dead.
"Warm and friendly" dad-of-one Martin Collins, from Streetfield in Herne Bay, was found by search teams on June 25 after being reported missing by loved ones.
The 46-year-old was well-known throughout the county, having performed at hundreds of events under the stage name The Kent Magician, and having formerly represented Herne Bay and Whitstable football clubs.
On Friday, at the opening of a public inquest at County Hall in Maidstone, coroner Katrina Hepburn told how Mr Collins was reported missing after "having sent messages that had caused concern".
Police launched a missing person appeal shortly after midnight on June 25, but Mr Collins was tragically found dead by police at Herne Bay Cemetery, at 5.30am on June 25.
Police are not treating his death as suspicious.
Following his tragic death, friends have described Mr Collins as a "warm and friendly" man who "was always lighting up the room".
Close friend and former Herne Bay FC manager Sam Denly described his death as "a massive shock".
"I only spoke to Martin last week and he didn’t seem himself," he said last week. "We’re all absolutely devastated.
“He was a gentleman and was always there to put a smile on people’s faces.
"He was a joker and an entertainer – there was never a dull moment around him. He was always lighting up the room.
“He’s played at both the local clubs, where there’s quite a big rivalry, and both clubs would tell you what a top bloke he was. It’s a real mark of the man.”
Mr Collins grew up in Canterbury before moving to Herne Bay at the age of 15.
The former Chaucer schoolboy played as a centre-back for the town’s football club for more than a decade, first representing the senior team in his teens.
He also represented Whitstable FC for a couple of seasons, but friends say he will be best-known for his successful stint in the Bay.
Friend of more than 20 years Glenn Huggett said: “Martin became a defensive legend for Herne Bay.
“He had a spell at Whitstable, but he will always be known for his time at Herne Bay and how popular he was in the dressing room.
“He was a lovable man; warm and friendly. He had time for everyone. He was one of those all-round top blokes.”
Friends say Mr Collins also worked for a number of years as a youth worker, helping dozens of troubled children in London and Herne Bay.
Speaking to KentOnline's sister paper the Herne Bay Gazette in 2015, he detailed his love for the town, describing it as the “kind of place where people know your name”.
"I think that is something quite special," he added.
"I played for Herne Bay from the age of 15 and I was there until my early 30s. I also had a couple of seasons playing for Whitstable.
"My favourite thing about magic would have to be the interaction with people.
“I try to make my shows fun and love seeing people baffled, providing those really different moments when they leave a night wondering how something has been done."
A full inquest into his death is due to take place on September 27, at Archbishop’s Palace in Maidstone.
Herne Bay FC are set to play their pre-season friendly against Cray Wanderers on July 31 in his memory.
All proceeds from the gate and any money raised during the match at Winch’s Field will be used to help cover his funeral costs.
To purchase tickets, click here.
A separate fundraiser launched to help pay for the funeral has already collected more than £4,000.
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