MOVING tributes have been paid to a BBC Essex broadcaster who has died after a short battle with lung cancer.

John Hayes, 61, lost his fight against the disease at Farleigh Hospice, in Chelmsford.

His professional career began in the mid-Seventies at the United Biscuits Network, before moving to independent radio.

In 1983, Mr Hayes joined Essex Radio in Southend, where he presented the mid-morning show.

When he moved to BBC Essex, he headed up the Southend studio, from where he presented his morning programme.

He was also the commentator at the Southend Air Show for many years.

A reassuring, unflappable presence on the airwaves, Mr Hayes’s “gifted voice” was loved by many of the county’s women.

However, the voice belied his small build and he was often heard to joke he had “a great body for radio”.

Gerald Main, managing editor of BBC Essex, said: “The radiowaves of Essex have lost a gifted voice. John was a much loved colleague and friend.”

Ric Morgan, the Lib Dem councillor for Prittlewell ward, was a former colleague of Mr Hayes.

He said: “I can honestly say I would not have achieved or done so much on radio if I had not had the help and advice I got from John.

“He was just about the best broadcaster on the station.”

Mr Morgan recalled how one of the times Mr Hayes’s professionalism saved the station was when Princess Diana died.

He said: “When a member of the Royal Family dies, local BBC stations stop voice broadcast and turn to a box of records they should play until instructions arrive.

“John was quick to spot – and remove – Who’s Gonna Drive You Home by the Cars.”

Mr Hayes is survived by his wife, Dawn, and three sons.