Suffolk/Essex: My son’s no gangland assassin and I’ll never give up on him, says mother of Jack Whomes the man convicted of the Essex Boys’ murders
PUBLISHED: 18:55 14 May 2014 | UPDATED: 18:55 14 May 2014
Eighteen years ago this week Suffolk mechanic Jack Whomes was arrested for a gangland slaying which became notorious as the Essex Boys’ murders. The 53-year-old continues to deny he was the hitman. Crime corresponden Colin Adwent reports.
For many the gangland executions of fearsome drug dealers Tony Tucker, Pat Tate and Craig Rolfe hold a morbid fascination.
Their cold-blooded deaths at the hands of a gunman on a snow-encrusted track at Rettendon, near Chelmsford, on the night of December 6, 1995, have spawned various feature films and documentaries.
Essex Boys, Bonded by Blood, and Rise of the Footsoldier have told. In totality or in part, the story of the events leading up to their deaths.
Various former underworld figures have told at least one crime documentary Whomes was not the killer.
Claim and counterclaim have been made over why the three notorious gangsters were gunned down and who killed them.
However, the man convicted of being their executioner - Jack Whomes, of Brockford near Stowmarket - is still in prison, although he denies being the assassin who pumped eight shots into their Range Rover.
He was found guilty in January 1998 at the Old Bailey along with co-convicted Michael Steele of Great Bentley, Essex.
The primary evidence against them came from supergrass and petty criminal Darren Nicholls.
For the past 16 years Whomes’ mother Pam, who lives in Finningham, near Stowmarket, has continued to fight on her son’s behalf to clear his name.
Already one appeal on behalf of her son and Steele has been turned down by three judges at the Royal Courts of Justice in 2006. They were hoping fresh evidence from a mobile telephone expert could free them.
Whomes and his mother are continuing their battle to get a second appeal before the High Court, even though they have had one application turned down already by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
Mrs Whomes, 76, vowed to fight until her dying breath if necessary to clear the name of the second eldest of her six children.
She said: “I believe Jack is innocent.
“I just want to get him back home where he belongs.
“All we are fighting for is to get him back into the appeal court, but we have to clear it through the Criminal Cases Review Commission before we get back there.
“We have been trying to get back in the appeal court since we last appeared there in 2006.
“Jack is strong. He’s relentless in his pursuit of justice.
“It will be 18 years on May 13 since he was arrested at his (works) yard in Barham.
“He had come home and dropped off my son Will and then went back to the yard, and he’s never been home since.”
Originally Whomes was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 15 years. However, it was subsequently raised to a 25-year minimum jail term by the then Home Secretary.
Whomes is currently in Whitemoor prison, Cambridgeshire.
His mother said: “Jack has got no way out. He’s still classed as a Category A prisoner. He has no way of getting down to B Category or getting out until he has confessed to a crime he didn’t do.
“Jack’s on my mind night and day. He phones me every morning and every evening. I’m lucky I can speak to him twice a day. He’s never out of my thoughts.
“I hope I will live for the day when he walks out of the (appeal) court a free man.”
Mrs Whomes said the governor and staff treat her son well, which makes things more bearable for him and his family.
She added: “He’s such a well-behaved prisoner and helps everybody, but it doesn’t get him home.
“Jack’s missed his family growing up. His children were 10 and 11 years old at the time. He’s missed his grandchildren being born. He’s missed 18 years of his life. His family were his life and he can never, ever get that back.
“I think ‘oh my God, don’t take me before he walks out of those doors’.
“I just know in my heart that he’s not guilty. Every mother sticks up for their children, but I just know he’s telling the truth.
“He didn’t do it. I believe in him. He wouldn’t put his family through this if he had done it. He would do his time and then get out.
“We all say to him ‘just say you have done it’ to get him home, but he says ‘I can’t say I have done something when I haven’t’.
“I feel like this is the last chance, although in Jack’s mind it’s not. I just hope one day when he’s home the true story will come out.
Asked what it is like to have her son branded a gangland assassin, Mrs Whomes said: “It’s unbelievable, but it just goes over my head because I know he didn’t do it.
“I will keep fighting until the day I die.
“I will never give up on him while I can still breathe. I will keep going for him as he would for any of us.”
Speaking from prison two years ago Jack Whomes said: “I am innocent and determined to clear my name. One day the truth will come out.
“All I want to do is to clear my name, return to my family and start my life over again. That’s what keeps me going.
Jack Whomes was hosing down a boat at his workplace in Barham, near Ipswich, when 20 police and customs officers, many armed, burst into the yard and arrested him on May 13, 1996.
Four days later he was jointly charged with murdering Patrick Tate, Craig Rolfe and Tony Tucker.
Whomes protested his innocence but was found guilty by an Old Bailey jury in January 1998 and sentenced to life imprisonment. He and Michael Steele had been named by supergrass Darren Nicholls as
Whomes and Michael Steele, from Ainger’s Green, Great Bentley, Essex, were jailed for life in January 1998 for the triple-killings.
Tate, Tucker and Rolfe were shot in quick succession and at close range on an isolated country track on December 6, 1995.
Their bodies were found the following morning – Tucker still clutching a mobile phone, Tate slumped on the back seat and Rolfe sitting in the driver’s seat.
The alleged motive for Steele and Whomes was a feud with the trio over a rogue batch of cannabis imported from Holland.
But the case against them rested on the word of one man, Darren Nicholls – a convicted criminal and police informant who claims he drove the men from the murder scene and named them as the killers.
Whomes and Steele say the story Nicholls told in court was a lie.
He gave elaborate details of phone calls and meetings between
himself, Whomes, Steele and the victims.
A key piece of evidence in the trial centred on two mobile phone calls made by Whomes to Nicholls just before 7pm on December 6, 1995 – just minutes after he had allegedly shot dead the three victims.
The first call cut off after a few seconds and the next, Nicholls claimed, was Whomes telling him to “come and get me” from Workhouse Lane, where the shootings had taken place.
The two were picked up on two different transmitters, meaning Whomes must have been using his mobile phone in an area overlapped by them – and Workhouse Lane was in the centre of it.
However, Whomes, a professional mechanic, had claimed he was at the Wheatsheaf pub in Rettendon to pick-up Nicholls’ broken-down VW Passat.