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Family pay tribute to talented Rochester singer Chris Austin

Chris Austin, who has died of liver cancer aged 38
Chris Austin, who has died of liver cancer aged 38

The family of a gifted singer who died a day after being diagnosed with cancer have paid a heartfelt tribute to him.

Rochester’s Chris Austin was 38 when he defied doctors last week and walked out of Medway Maritime Hospital. He died with his family by his side.

His brother Tom Moore, 35, said: “He was an amazing brother. He was my mentor, hero and friend and a role model for me.”

Chris was still in the womb when he attended his first music festival – Glastonbury 1974. His mother gave him a keyboard aged four. Aged five, he wrote that he wanted to be a footballer or a musician.

Music was in his blood. His grandfather Bill had entertained troops in the Second World War. His great-grandmother Ida danced in music halls.

“Chris always did things his way,” said his mum Bev, 60. “There was a time when he was about two and he was being babysat by his grandad. Grandad took his eyes off Chris for a minute.

“He climbed over the fence and disappeared and we had the police out after him. A few hours later he came wandering back over the farm, totally oblivious, with two girls aged about six. He had gone through the woods and to a playground in the next village.

“That’s Chris. He was independent. When he was 17 or so he disappeared completely for about two years. It was painful at the time but I think he just wanted to experience new things.”

Later he followed his mum into her Gillingham home, next to the Medway Deaf Club in Balmoral Road.

“We used to say it was just as well they were deaf,” she joked. “It ended up being called the Playboy Mansion because there were so many people who came round. We’d have 12 or 13 people living there, it was full of life.

“It drove us mad at times, but to set out to do what he wanted and achieve that was incredible.”

Chris played in the band Tape Error
Chris played in the band Tape Error

Chris’s most recent band was acoustic group Tape Error, one of the biggest names on Medway’s indie scene. They had just signed to a label and released an EP.

He also travelled to Russia and the Ukraine and worked a day job selling solar panels.

His family had noticed he looked ill earlier this year, but thought he was overworked. Eventually he sought help and was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer last Tuesday.

“Christopher, I think, knew he was dying,” said his mother.

“He hated hospitals with a vengeance. Medway Hospital wanted to do some very intensive, invasive examinations and I think Chris felt that where he wanted to be was with his family.

“He came down and he looked really ill. I was really worried and I said to his girlfriend to call if there were any problems. Ten or 15 minutes after we’d all gone to bed we got the call.”

Friends plan to put on a tribute festival at Chris’s aunt’s pub, the George in Chartham, near Canterbury, where he chose to die.

They have also set up a musical tribute page at soundcloud.com/chris-austin-rip.

His mother said: “I’m really touched to know how much he was loved.”

Chris also leaves his sister Theresa and girlfriend Leila Soames.

His funeral service is still to be arranged.

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