Fresh appeal hope for pair convicted of 'Essex Boys' gangland murders
Lawyers for two men convicted of an infamous triple gangland murder are making a fresh attempt to clear their names.
Solicitors for the so-called ‘Essex Boys’ killers have lodged another request with the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) – responsible for investigating alleged miscarriages of justice.
Jack Whomes, from Brockford, Suffolk, and Michael Steele, from Great Bentley, Essex, were jailed for life in 1998 for shooting drug dealers Tony Tucker, Pat Tate and Craig Rolfe, whose bodies were found in a Range Rover at the end of a farm track in Rettendon, near Chelmsford, in December 1995.
The murders provided inspiration for British films Rise of the Footsoldier and Essex Boys.
Wells Burcombe Solicitors, acting for Whomes and Steele, this week submitted a fresh request to the CCRC – understood to be based on an assertion of ‘significant non-disclosure’ of evidence.
The CCRC first referred the case for appeal in 2004, but the convictions were upheld by the court in 2006. The appeal mainly hinged on the prosecution’s reliance on the evidence of ‘supergrass’ Darren Nicholls, who claimed to be an unwitting getaway driver, and unknown to the jury, had negotiated a contract for reward to collaborate on a book published after the trial.
The case was looked at again by the CCRC in the mid 2000s – but was not referred for appeal.
It then considered another application from Whomes and Steele in 2015, but declined a review on the grounds that the request raised nothing new.
Both men, who have always protested their innocence, sought a judicial review of that decision, but were not granted leave to do so by the Administrative Court.
Previous applicants are free to apply to the CCRC – but cases will only be reviewed if something has not been considered in an earlier review, at trial or on appeal.
John Whomes, who lives near Eye, Suffolk, and has campaigned for his brother’s release for years, said: “Jack told me over the phone that his solicitor had filed with the CCRC to return the case to the Court of Appeal on very powerful grounds of non-disclosure.
“We’re obviously over the moon. It’s coming up to 23 years now. We’re ecstatic.
“Of course, we have to go into it with some caution, bearing in mind an appeal was rejected in 2006, but we had certain points to go back to the CCRC with anyway.”