A reformed former convict has been named Croydon’s Next Top Role Model despite only turning up to the event as a member of the audience.

Chris Syrus, from Thornton Heath, has completely turned his life around since serving five years in jail and now uses spoken word poetry and community action to work with young people at risk of offending.

Since leaving prison in 2009 Mr Syrus, 33, has set up his own company, written a book and produced a film, both called Love Life 6948, named after his prisoner number, and has an acoustic band also of the same name.

Appearing at community awards night Croydon’s Next Top Role Model on August 31, Mr Syrus was pulled from the crowd after a nominee dropped out, and wowed the judges to take top spot.

He said: "It was funny. I was going to perform but didn’t have my acoustic band, but in the end I ended up performing as well, and then impressing the judges enough to win."

Tony Harrison, director of the event, said: "The finalists were picked by young people aged between eight and 19 who had organised the event as part of an exercise in leadership and skills.

"When some of the finalists didn’t arrive Chris stepped up from the audience. Answering questions from the judges in the space of two hours he went from an audience member to a winner."

His film, which looks at his experiences in prison, won the Roger Graef Platinum award as part of the Koestler Awards, set up to exhibit work by prisoners.

It will be on show at The Royal Festival Hall between September 20 and November 25.