Reformed bikie spills: ‘Backstabbing’ at heart of Mongols
AN ex-bikie who played a major role in the "Ballroom Blitz" brawl has slammed his former club the Mongols and says the "lifestyle bred on violence" led to the execution-style murder of long-time friend Shane Bowden.
Tyson Ward, a heavily tattooed six-foot-11 former Finks enforcer turned south Adelaide Mongols chapter president, fears his name will never be separated from his criminal past and told the Bulletin he had given up the gang lifestyle to help others and make his late grandparents proud.
In a wide-ranging interview, Ward says he and his twin brother Matt are now on a mission to steer the next generation of potential bikies away from gang life through the work of Arcofyre, an Adelaide-based rehabilitation consultancy for ex-offenders.
He slammed the young generation of bikies and unloaded on his former club the Mongols, which he left in 2017 when he felt it was no longer about "brotherhood" and instead "bickering and backstabbing".
The reformed bikie, who once had the word 'FINKS' tattooed across his throat, says gang culture has changed but the lifestyle is as violent as ever, as shown by two hooded figures executing Bowden at close range in a Pimpama driveway in October.
Ward was introduced to the Finks by his brother. He was attracted to a lifestyle of "camaraderie" after he stopped playing basketball at the Australian Institute of Sport.
He says he was "offered a brotherhood, handshake and patch, and a bike" and that members had come together through a common interest in motorcycles.
In 2013, Ward patched over to the Mongols - the club suspected of involvement in the execution-style murder of Bowden by police - as did his brother behind bars.
He thought it would be a "bigger brotherhood" through its international links, but says its nationwide and local chapter hierarchy structure turned it into a "power struggle" and "money grab".
"That's when the loyalty went out the window," he tells the Bulletin from Adelaide. "I had enough of the backstabbing, the betrayal all inside your so-called club. I needed a new start and just packed up me shit, turned my back to them and left.
"These days … it's more glamorous. These young punks that are joining clubs, plastering all their crap on Facebook. They want the media attention, they want the glamorous lifestyle, which it's not.
"They call themselves motorcycle clubs but they are street gangs wearing leathers and it's all glorified through the media and through Facebook."
But Ward says it is still a "dangerous lifestyle".
"Look at what happened to Shane. It's a lifestyle bred on violence and you live it and you breathe it and sometimes it takes your life."
Ward spent time in Perth, and was jailed for four-and-a-half-years in South Australia for possessing a Chinese assault rifle and dealing in ecstasy. He denied it was club related and said he was looking after them for someone else.
Ward was an Adelaide-based Finks associate when he was invited to the Glitter Strip by Gold Coast club members on the weekend of March 18, 2006.
"We jumped on a plane and went up just for a weekend of partying. If it wasn't the Gold Coast, we would go to a Sydney chapter, or blokes would come down to Adelaide," he says.
"We decided to go see the kickboxing event and as the video shows the Hells Angels were there and we weren't to know they were there … we rocked up … and an altercation between two members turned into an altercation between about 50."
A Brisbane District Court in 2008 heard Ward was seen punching ex-Fink turned Hells Angel Christopher Hudson in the back and neck at the Royal Pines Resort while he was held down on the side of the boxing ring. Unknown to Ward, Hudson had been shot.
Multiple people were shot and stabbed in the brawl.
Ward says his role in the melee was just "defending my brothers and being loyal towards them".
He says he believed the altercation started between two over the defection of Christopher Hudson to the Hells Angels.
After the Ballroom Blitz Ward went back to Adelaide where he handed himself in.
When he returned to the Gold Coast for his court date the Bulletin's coverage read "It's Fink-fi-fo-fum" as he was forced to duck to fit through court security, and towered over his solicitor.
Ward eventually pleaded guilty to assault occasioning bodily harm and was fined $3000.
The judge accepted Ward was a "minor" player in the violent affair, which was likened to a scene in the Wild West.
Bowden would be later jailed for six-and-a-half years for pulling the trigger.
"As far as the Ballroom Blitz goes … I've been convicted of it, the people who the government thought should be charged and convicted of it, have been," Ward recalls.
"It was just a fight that broke out that was not planned.
"Sure, it was big news. It was out in public, normally that sort of stuff happens in private, but it was public just like the Broadbeach incident between the Bandidos.
"I got myself in that situation, being associated with who I was associated with. I think the Fink-fi-fo-fum headlines … was the media's way of trying to hang some shit on me. At the end of the day it is what it is, that's what I was devoted to back then."
I LEFT WITH NOTHING
Ward says he struggled with the "cloud hanging over" his head since leaving the bikie lifestyle.
He says he left the clubs with "nothing" and former friends had turned his back on him.
Ward claims he was banned from the Adelaide Casino until 2044, which he described as "completely ridiculous", and says despite not having been charged with a crime in more than a decade was still subject to car searches and raids "due to so-called firearm prohibition orders".
"No matter what I did, no matter what I've done, I'm always ex-criminal. But you're more than that, I'm ex-bikie. I'm Tyson Ward and I never ever got the opportunity to go forward."
Ward says the tattoos that he got out of loyalty to both clubs, including FINKS across his throat, are gone.
Asked how he was treated by the public while a bikie, he says the same way he's treated now.
"Whether I've got a patch on my back or not, I'm six-foot-11, covered in tattoos, the second I walk into a room everyone looks at me, judges me, and shits themselves.
And that's the way society goes. You judge a book by its cover and react accordingly."
He says he wants to be seen as someone who has "lived the life he's lived and wants to give back … and not be judged by what I used to be".
HELPING KIDS TODAY
Ward and his brother Matthew have joined Arcofyre - a rehabilitation consultancy run by South Australians Kirby Brownlow, who has spent time behind bars, and Henry Keogh, who was jailed for murder before his conviction was overturned on appeal.
The brothers will work on an anti-gang program hoped to be rolled out across the country in an attempt to deter young people from a life of crime and violence.
Ward says those behind bars were "prime targets" for bikie clubs.
Through the agency he wants to change the perception of rehabilitated prisoners and bikies.
Fuelled by wanting to make his late grandparents proud, Ward says he was more than willing to tell wannabe bikies the brutal truth and if he can help divert one wannabe gangster he wouldn't regret anything.
He would tell a young Ward and tomorrow's gangsters: "I've spent 15 years in a violent life. I've been in jail, I've done things, I've hurt my family, I've hurt my friends and all because of blind loyalty to a group that showed no loyalty in the end.
Whatever you give in, you're never going to get back. These days you're going to get used, abused and then spat out the other end," he would tell them.
Originally published as Reformed bikie spills: 'Backstabbing and betrayal' at heart of Mongols