FORMER West Ham United and Southend United striker Jeroen Boere, who was landlord of an Epping pub for five years and a father-of-three, was found dead in his home in Spain last Thursday.

The 39-year-old retired from football in 1999 after he lost an eye in a bar brawl in Tokyo and decided to move to Epping and run the Half Moon pub in the High Street.

Boere had joined West Ham in 1993 and went on to play 29 times for the Hammers scoring seven goals.

He spent time on loan at Portsmouth and West Bromwich Albion before moving to Crystal Palace in September 1995.

A year later he joined Southend United where he played for two seasons before signing for Japanese second division side Omiya Ardiia at the end of the 1997-98 season.

Close friend Annie Evans, who met Mr Boere at a mutual friend's party in 2001, said: "Jeroen was a fantastic, larger-than-life character. He will be very, very fondly remembered. Many got to know him through the pub just as much as through the football. His death will have left a hole in many peoples' lives."

She added: "A sweet saying I heard was that candles that burn the brightest always burn the shortest and this is very true in Jeroen's case. He will be sadly missed by many people in the area."

Mr Boere ran the Half Moon pub for four years before moving to Marbella in Spain with his wife in September 2004 to work as a real estate agent. They had a child together two years ago, in addition to Mr Boere's two sons from a previous marriage. The cause of death has not yet been confirmed.

Mr Boere's wife is being comforted by close family and friends who have gone to Spain to be with her.