FRIENDS of a prisoner who was found hanged in his cell just days after his sentence was said to have been cut by a third have paid tribute to him.

Tom Collister, of Stembridge Road, Penge, was found hanging in his cell at HMP Camp Hill in Newport on the Isle of Wight just before 7.30am on Saturday morning (February 7).

He had belonged to a gang of graffiti artists which carried out a two-year campaign of vandalism on trains and stations around south London.

The 23-year-old glazier was linked to the tags SKEAMS, SKEAMZ, SKEAM and FDC.

He was given a 30-month sentence at Southwark Crown Court last October after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal damage.

But it is believed the length of time he would have to serve was slashed by 10 months at a hearing on February 3.

It is thought he may even have been eligible to be electronically tagged and released on licence next month.

This has not been confirmed by the authorities but posting on a group’s ‘wall’ on a social networking site his brother Luke says: “toms sentence got reduced from 30 months month down to 20 months so he shud be out next month 3. my bruva.”

Speaking to the News Shopper one of his friends, who did not want to be named, said: “He had made some mistakes in his life and he had been punished for them.

“Yes he did a bit of graffiti but he was a guy that would help an old lady across the road or give up his seat on the bus.”

The 21-year-old added: “He was helpful and respectful and he had a lot of friends in the local area.

“Everyone has been in tears and cannot understand why it happened.”

Another friend, who also did not want to be named, told the News Shopper she has been re-reading the letters Tom sent her from prison to try and find some answers.

She said: “I keep reading them over and over and he was his normal self and he cracks a joke and I just don’t understand it at all.

“There is no reason to suggest he is not happy or going to harm himself.”

The 23-year-old added: “He did not deserve the 30 months for painting a few trains and I do not think anyone thought he deserved it.

“Community service to clean up the mess that he made would have been a better option than putting him in prison.

“Then he would have paid back to the community.”

A Prison Service spokesman said: "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Mr Collister."

His death will be investigated by the prisons and probation ombudsman.