John Frederick Hayes was born on 7 Sep 1911 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. He died in Sydney on 7 May 1993.
1930 New South Wales. Police Dept.glass plate negative : b & w ; 4.75 x 6.5"
Hayes was born at the Sydney suburb of Paddington, New South Wales on 7 September 1911, the illegitimate son of Elizabeth Hayes who was a prostitute and petty criminal (although he lied about much of his early background in his biography). He was soon put into the care of his grandmother and an aunt, and was brought up by them. He lived his early years in the inner-city suburbs of Chippendale and Haymarket.
Hayes rarely attended school after his eighth birthday, and earned a living as a newspaper seller in the area around Central railway station known as Railway Square. He was caught for truancy on a number of occasions and was sent to boy reformatories. As a teenager he became involved with gang-related crime in and around his local area, namely shoplifting, petty theft and assault. Hayes was known as a major player in the Sydney Gang Wars of the late 1920s and 1930s and was known to police as an extremely violent person. In a show of bravado, in February 1939 Chow Hayes was shot at Glebe and taken to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, although he discharged himself with the bullet still inside his body to avoid police interrogation.
Incidents like this were reported widely in the national media, and Chow Hayes's hard reputation grew.
Hayes' criminal career progressed as he grew older. A biography that was written about him in 1990 by David Hickie named "Chow Hayes, Gunman", suggested that he started carrying and using firearms in his late teens. He became involved in larger robberies and stand-over extortion scams, which enriched his ego, but also gave him a very bad reputation with the general public and thus became a menace to the police.
Chow Hayes spent many years of his life in prison for a succession of crimes which included small felonies such as drunkenness to capital crimes such as murder. In 1938 he shot Henry Jack Baker, the de facto partner of Sydney crime czar Kate Leigh, but he escaped prosecution.
On New Year's Day 1945 he shot and killed a fellow Sydney gangster named Eddie Weyman (1915-1945), but he was later found not guilty at trial although in the David Hickie biography, Hayes admitted that he had indeed killed Weyman and got away with it. In 1951 he murdered a fellow gangster William 'Bobby' Lee (1915-1951) at a Sydney inner city nightclub. After hiding from police for six weeks, he (and his accomplice William 'Joey' Hollebone) was finally caught by the notorious Sydney detective Ray "Gunner" Kelly. He was tried twice for this offence before he was found guilty in 1952. Hayes served over fifteen years in prison for that murder.
He was freed from prison under licence in the mid-1960s, and was soon back extorting money from many of Sydney's most dangerous criminals, including crooked casino boss Dick Reilly and the 'king' of Sydney's brothel business Joe Borg. Hayes was initially implicated in the murder of underworld heavy Joe Borg in May 1968, although the police quickly determined that he was not involved. Hayes was back in jail for another seven years in 1970 for a grievous bodily harm conviction when he sliced the face and arms of Gerald Hutchinson with a broken glass in 1969.
Chow Hayes was married on 23 December 1932 to his childhood sweetheart, Gladys Muriel King (1913-1969), known as 'Topsy', and they had four children. His wife and two of his children died while he was incarcerated.
Last years and death
After spending over 30 years in prison at different times, Chow Hayes was released on 14 February 1977. All of his ill-gotten wealth was long gone, either wasted on gambling or on expensive legal costs. He lived out the rest of his life with no criminal convictions, and lived in a flat at Lidcombe.
After a long battle with cancer, Hayes died in Sydney on 7 May 1993. His cremated ashes were placed in his wife's grave on 31 January 1994 at Rookwood Cemetery. He was survived by his youngest daughter.
Elizabeth Hayes Lyons (1893 - 1939)
Children With Gladys Muriel King Hayes (1913 - 1969)
John Patrick Hayes (1933 - 1933)
Patrick Frederick Hayes (1935 - 1987)
Robert Hubert Hayes (1937 - 1937)
Gladys Veronica Hayes Paxton (1939 - 2014)
More on John from newspaper accounts
John Frederick 'Chow' Hayes died in Lidcombe, Sydney on 7 May 1993 after a long battle with lung cancer. His cremated ashes were placed in his wife's grave on 31 January 1994 at Rookwood Cemetery (Catholic Crematorium Rookwood Office). He was survived by his youngest child a daughter, Gladys Veronica "Little Topsy" Hayes Paxton (1939 - 2014).
Frederick ‘Chow' Hayes was born in 1911 (GRAVER'S NOTE: Mug shot shows date of birth as 1912). He grew up poor and without any significant male role models, similarly to many war-children. Most children of this generation did not however grow up to become the most feared gunman and gangster in Australia.
Chow Hayes was a brutal contradiction of a man. To those who feared him, he was a thug, a thief and a murderer. He quite literally bashed, stole and shot his way to the top of Sydney's criminal underworld in the first half of the 20th Century. At the same time, he was a product of his age, and in some ways a gentlemanly crook. Of all his victims over the years, none were women or children, and he never perpetrated sex crime - Hayes considered those who would harm or sexually abuse those weaker than them as ‘immoral'.
Evolution of a Tough Nut
An early formulative experience in Chow Hayes life occurred when he was 12 years old. Hayes' father served in the iconic Light-Horse Regiment in Europe during WWI and returned a broken man. Diagnosed with shell-shock and shocking psychological wounds as a result of his time in service, Hayes' father was permanently committed to an insane asylum. After visiting his father and seeing the crumpled, wasted man he had become, and after seeing him being clearly being mistreated by hospital staff, Chow leaves the hospital in disgust. He is clearly moved by the experience, and from this point on never sees his father again.
Hayes turned to crime early without supervision as an adolescent. The streets of Sydney were rife with gangs, and easy money through theft and booze was of course more appealing than pens, books and study. By the time Hayes was 18 he had been in and out of boys-reformatories a number of times for misdemeanour offences. Hayes would later speak of his time in these homes as more of an education than a punishment - it was behind the walls of the Gosford Boys Home that Chow received his PhD in crime.
A Gun in a Knife Fight
Chow Hayes was not a large man, but his persona on the street quickly grew to leviathan proportions. This was due to Hayes policy to always be more violent than his enemies. Even as jail took him from and released him back onto the streets over the years, he would always return to an old haunt and re-establish himself through a heinous act of violence as the alpha-dog of the pack. His reputation was largely earned through his interaction with the notorious ‘razor-gangs' of Sydney's Kings Cross. The razor gangs were involved in prostitution and bootleg alcohol, and as the name would suggest, carried knives and large straight-razors for their own protection and enforcement. Hayes, always looking to get the drop on his opponents, would on more than one occasion embody the phrase "never take a knife to a gunfight" (or in this case a razor-fight). The razor gangs steered clear of Hayes and his turf after having a Colt .45 pistol aimed at their head.
Hayes murdered rival Sydney criminal Eddie Weyman in 1945. After a shootout some weeks earlier in which Hayes had shot and wounded an associate of Weyman's, the two were gunning for each other. In a radio interview in later life, Hayes described this time as being similar to walking on eggshells.
"He wasn't going to let it go, but he knew I wasn't going to let it go; and I wasn't going to let it go."
Hayes knew that Weyman would kill him on sight, and so in usual Hayes fashion, he took the initiative and the upper hand. After a week of hiding, Hayes climbed up the fire escape of the rickety Darlinghurst terrace owned by Weyman and found him lying on a bed. Hayes coolly and calmly shot Weyman five times and he died at the scene.
Hayes was an ingenious criminal, and covered his tracks superbly. Witnesses were always hard to come by whenever Chow Hayes exacted his brand of carnage upon the people of Sydney - such was his reputation for malice and bloodshed. The case which illustrates this most prominently and probably Hayes' most famous crime is the murder of former boxer Bobby Lee in a King's Cross bar in 1951. Lee had been gunning for Chow Hayes for some time, and had recently killed Hayes' nephew after mistaking him for the known gunman. This incensed Hayes, who had only months ago been released from prison. One evening Hayes received a tip off that Bobby Lee was drinking with friends at the Ziegfeld Club in King Street, Sydney. Hayes steadily walked through the club, .45 pistol drawn, and upon sighting Lee emptied the six-round chamber into his victim. Lee was hit in the thigh, chest and stomach and died soon after. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this crime is that it was committed in front of over 70 witnesses in the form of fellow-club-goers. Despite this fact, police could not find one witness willing to testify against Hayes for the shooting. The struggle for useful testimony would go on for so long that the case against Hayes would experience two mistrials.
Hayes was eventually brought to trial for Lee's murder in 1954. A victim of his own morals, Hayes turned himself in and admitted to the crime to save his wife from jail. Hayes wife was known as a ‘cleanskin' - someone who steered clear of crime, but police had grown tired of their search for a witness against Hayes, and had decided to switch tactics. Hayes wife would therefore be brought to trial in the murder of Lee as an accessory before the fact. Hayes cleared her name, was found guilty and was sentenced to hang for the murder.
Slipping The Noose
Ironically, two years later in 1956, the NSW government outlawed capital punishment so Hayes escaped the noose. His sentence was transferred to life in prison, and he spent the majority of this time in Parramatta Jail. It seems that Chow Hayes notoriety extended to the world behind bars as well. He was known by fellow inmates and guards, and received special treatment due to his status. He enjoyed an illegal radio in his cell and was able to run an SP bookie's practice under the nose of his captors. His cell had a unique lock and would be locked during the day when Hayes was away working in the wood shop so that wardens couldn't search his belongings. Hayes often repaid this treatment with action. A story is told of a guard being bashed in the shower block, only to have Hayes come to his rescue and be knocked unconscious.
Hayes was released from prison after almost 20 years due to his being diagnosed with terminal cancer.
He achieved substantial fame after being the subject of a book by David Hickie, and was immortalised in a portrait in 1991's Archibald prize, just a few months before his death.
Chow Hayes was Australia's first gangster and a Tough Nut through and through.
- Tough Nuts
"Chow" Hayes Spits
And Yells After
A Central Criminal Court jury late yesterday found John Frederick ("Chow") Hayes, 39, guilty of the murder of former boxer William John ("Bobby") Lee.
It was Hayes's third trial.
The verdict was given on the eve of the first anniversary of the murder. Lee was shot in the Ziegfeld Cafe, King Street, city.
Hayes stood unmoved while the jury returned its verdict, but his wife, sitting at the back of the court, gave a scream. Friends calmed her.
"YOU LYING -"
Asked if he had anything to say before Mr. Justice McClemens passed sentence, Hayes said: "I hope to live for the day that Kelly and Abbott die of cancer of the tongue."
The Crown case hinged on a murder confession alleged to have been made by Hayes at the C.I.B. to Detective-Sergeant Raymond Kelly and Detective Abbott.
Hayes said that on the Judge's summing up he
Mr. Justice McClemens sentenced Hayes to death.
Immediately afterwards Hayes lunged his fist through the bars of the dock in the direction of Detective Kelly, a few feet away, spat, and yelled, "You lying bastard."
A constable grabbed Hayes and pushed him through a trapdoor leading to the cells beneath the court.
Hayes, of 93 Thomas Street, Ultimo, was alleged to have shot Lee with a .45 automatic on May 29 last year. He was arrested on July 13.
At trials held in November, 1951, and last March the juries failed to agree and were discharged.
The Senior Crown Prosecutor, Mr. C. V. Rooney, Q.C., told the jury at the third trial, which began on Monday, that the shooting of Lee carried all the stigmata of an underworld feud.
Hayes, he said, had a strong motive for killing Lee.
On May 1, 1951, Danny Simmons, a nephew of Hayes's wife, was shot dead at Hayes's home, apparently in mistake for Hayes.
"KNOCK" HIM OFF
Hayes suspected Lee of having been implicated in that shooting, Mr. Rooney said.
Detective Kelly said that when he asked Hayes if he had shot Lee, Hayes replied: "Yes. What would you do if you knew a mug who had got a car to knock you off?"
In a statement from the dock yesterday, Hayes de- nied confessing.
He said Lee was shot by a stranger who came up to the table in the Ziegfeld Cafe where Lee, some friends, and himself were drinking.
"There was no reason or motive for me to have any grudge against Lee," he said. "Nor is there any truth in the suggestion that I thought, suspected, or said that Lee had taken any hand in the shooting of my nephew, Danny Simmons."
Hayes claimed that Detective Kelly had told him that he would put a "good verbal" over him.
The jury was out for only an hour and a quarter.
Mr. Justice McClemens said it returned the only verdict possible on the evidence. It had relieved the community of a man whose record, right from the start, was one of a fight against society.
The gaol recorder read out a list of nearly 90 convic- tions against Hayes, dating from 1928, when Hayes was 15.
The majority were for riotous behaviour, assaulting policemen, theft, and indecent language. More serious convictions were for armed robbery (1941) and occasioning bodily harm (1945).
CASE A LESSON
After pronouncing sentence of death, Mr. Justice Mc- Clemens said the case "should be a lesson to all those who think that a career of crime, even petty crime, does not end in just retribution."
During his summing up to the jury, Mr. Justice Mc- Clemens said that Mr. G. Amsberg, Q.C. (senior counsel for Hayes), had conducted the defence with great vigour and great brilliance.
- The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday, 29 May 1952