Steven Keeble is charged with the murder of John Masser in Basildon, Essex. Steven Keeble / Facebook

A man accused of the historic rape of a teenager 30 years ago was savagely beaten to death in the street in front of a cheering crowd just weeks before he was due to stand trial, it has been reported.

Essex Police say that John Masser was found by officers in the street with serious head injuries at around 5.30pm on Sunday (1 October) after he was attacked in Basildon.

The 49-year-old died on Tuesday after suffering a suspected brain haemorrhage in the assault at the junction of Moss Drive and Moss Close.

The force arrested Steven Keeble, 36, of Moss Close who was due to appear at Basildon Magistrates' Court on Thursday (5 October).

In September Masser had appeared at Basildon Crown Court, where he denied carrying out a sex attack on a girl under the age of 16 in 1986, and was released on bail.

The father-of-three had denied the rape allegation and was set to stand trial on 27 November.

But before the trial could begin he was beaten to death with the Daily Mail reporting that witnesses to the attack could be heard cheering as he was cornered leaving a house in the street.

One woman said: "There was a woman outside egging them on and there were children watching it all and screaming. It was awful.

"The police were there all night. The council and police need to look into the anti-social behaviour."

The newspaper reported that a member of Masser's family claimed he had asked for police protection before he was killed.

The family member also said that Masser had to be sectioned because of mental health problems before his death. Essex Police have not commented on these claims.

Masser was said to have been well known by Basildon's homeless community after previously living on the streets.

Tributes to Massser were paid after his death including by "devastated" neighbour Sharon Wood, who said: "John was a Chelsea fan through and through. He was the best neighbour you could ask for and he helped me a lot as I am poorly."

The case has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).