Range Rover murders - appeal date soon

TWO men serving life sentences for the killing of three Essex drug barons are expecting to hear before Christmas whether their cases will be referred to the Court of Appeal.

TWO men serving life sentences for the killing of three Essex drug barons are expecting to hear before Christmas whether their cases will be referred to the Court of Appeal.

Jack Whomes and Michael Steele, both convicted of the Rettendon triple murders in 1995, have always protested their innocence of the charges.

They were found guilty of the brutal killings of Patrick Tate, Craig Rolfe and Tony Tucker after a four-month trial at the Old Bailey in 1998.

The trio were blasted to their deaths as they sat in a Range Rover on an isolated lane near Rettendon near Chelmsford,


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Whomes, 42, of Brockford, near Stowmarket, and Steele, 60, of Aingers Green, Great Bentley, have twice been refused leave to appeal against their convictions.

But the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) is expected to conclude its investigations into both men's cases shortly. It could decide to refer them to the Court of Appeal.

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The family of Whomes, a married father-of-two, have fought to prove his innocence and claim the evidence of "supergrass" Darren Nicholls in the case should be discredited.

Whomes's brother John, 41, said he was "101% confident" his brother would win his fight for freedom.

"I am sure he is homeward bound. There are some serious allegations being made and we think the case will be referred back before Christmas," he said.

Mr Whomes, of Gislingham, near Eye, added he believed the case could go before the Court of Appeal as early as next April.

The CCRC started reviewing Whomes's case in May 2002, having received his application in November 2001, and has been investigating Steele's conviction since November 2001.

Last night, a spokesman for the CCRC refused to comment on when a verdict would be made on the cases.

Whomes and Steele were convicted largely on the evidence of Darren Nicholls who has been given a new identity.

Nicholls claimed he picked up Whomes and Steele at the end of the country lane minutes after Tate, 37, from Basildon, 38-year-old Tucker, from Fobbing, and Rolfe, 26, from Chafford Hundred, were killed.

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