Range Rover murder case goes to Europe

A LAWYER acting for one of the men convicted of the notorious Rettendon murders will lodge formal documents with the European Court of Human Rights this week in his fight for freedom.

By Danielle Nuttall

A LAWYER acting for one of the men convicted of the notorious Rettendon murders will lodge formal documents with the European Court of Human Rights this week in his fight for freedom.

Chris Bowen, who has represented Michael Steele for 11 years, will hand over a legal petition in Strasbourg tomorrow asking the court to rule his client was denied a fair trial.

Steele, 63, of Great Bentley, and Jack Whomes, 46, of Brockford, near Eye, are serving life sentences for the 1995 murders of Patrick Tate, Anthony Tucker and Craig Rolfe, who were found dead in a Range Rover on an isolated farm track in Rettendon, near Chelmsford.


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During the original trial, Steele and Whomes, along with Peter Corry, of Clacton, were also found guilty of conspiracy to import cannabis.

The case was referred back to the Court of Appeal in March last year after fresh evidence revealed the central prosecution witness in the trial - supergrass Darren Nicholls - sold his story to a publisher more than a year before giving evidence against the pair in court.

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Lawyers representing the men argued if the jury had known about the media deal, they would have come to a different verdict.

But the trio lost their appeal after judges upheld the convictions.

Mr Bowen has since applied to take the case to the House of Lords but this later failed and he said he was left no option but to take it to Europe.

Speaking ahead of his visit yesterday, Mr Bowen said: “We are seeking a declaration from the European Court of Human Rights that Michael Steele was denied the right to a fair trial. Such a declaration will inevitably speed up his release from prison.

“They will take the paperwork and start to consider our position. Eventually, there will be a court hearing but it could take a long time.”

A further application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission is also in the process of being submitted. The CCRC originally referred the case to the Court of Appeal.

“There is an abundance of new evidence,” said Mr Bowen.

“Michael Steele would rather die in prison than admit to offences he has not committed.

“I know Michael Steele will not die in prison. We have evidence to bring him home. Time is the only uncertain factor.”

Jackie Steele, Steele's partner, said the latest developments had given her new hope of his release.

“As before, we are extremely hopeful that this time the appeal will succeed and there is new evidence to hand which may mean it will not even get as far as a hearing in Europe - it might not be necessary.

“This new evidence Mr Bowen has found has only been a very recent find and obviously the documents are being put together to go to the CCRC.

“It's very significant. It may mean a quick end to the whole of this case. He (Steele) is adamant and always has been that this will be resolved. He's confident that he will be released.”

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