Wesley Sterling’s family have spoken of their grief at his death and appealed for any witnesses to come forward.

The 16-year-old Croydon College student died in the early hours of Sunday morning after being stabbed in the chest at a birthday party at Croydon Sports Arena.

In a statement to the Croydon Guardian, Wesley’s father Mark Sterling, mother Beverley and sisters Natasha and Rachelle said: “Our son and brother was a beautiful, talented and exceptionally smart young man. He had just finished his first year in college and was praised by his tutor for his exceptional academic performance.

“He always thought of others and had a smile and a joke for everyone. He had a lot of time for his family and friends who loved him dearly. Our wounds will never fully heal. We grieve his death but celebrate his life.

“We really need anyone with any useful information to come forward.”

Dozens of friends gathered at the scene of Wesley Sterling’s murder to lay flowers outside Croydon Arena.

The student was due to celebrate his 17th birthday on May 4, just a few weeks away.

His father Mark Sterling, 47, said at the scene of his son’s death: “I am utterly devastated by what has happened. We all are. He was a lovely person.”

Lives not Knives campaigner Eliza Rebeiro, 16, paid a tearful tribute to her friend outside Croydon Sports Arena, saying he was a “wonderful, lovely guy”, who was into music.

She said: “Wesley was a talented lyricist, he had an amazing imagination and a hilarious sense of humour. He was always looking down on me from his great height and forever telling me to grow.

“I know he is looking down on his loved ones and family. He will always be in our thoughts.”

She said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time: “I think it was the wrong guy they took.”

The anti-knife campaigner and her friend Vivian Evans have been so shocked by what happened they are organising a rally in Wesley’s memory.

Vivian, 16, said: “Me and Wesley used to record a lot of music together, he was a really talented boy. He had a friendly aura and was the class clown. He was always there for me.

“We have been doing a lot with Lives not Knives but this has affected us all so much. Hearing about stabbings stopped shocking me, but this is just too close to home. It is time to take action.”

Another friend at the scene Kevon Small, 16, said: “Wesley was great company, he was funny and used to make jokes all the time, he was into his music. I was very sad about his death, kids that are still in gangs need to stop it, this has to stop.”

Anyone with any information is asked to call the incident room in Sutton 0208 721 4005 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Two teenagers have been arrested in connection with the murder. A 15-year-old boy who has been bailed until June and an 18-year-old who is in custody in a South London police station.