'Essex boys' killers appeal hope
FRESH evidence could lead to an Essex man jailed for the murders of three drugs dealers being freed from prison, his solicitor has claimed.Michael Steele, 63, was jailed for life in January 1998 for the murders of Patrick Tate, Anthony Tucker and Craig Rolfe on a farm track in Rettendon, near Chelmsford.
By Annie Davidson
FRESH evidence could lead to an Essex man jailed for the murders of three drugs dealers being freed from prison, his solicitor has claimed.
Michael Steele, 63, was jailed for life in January 1998 for the murders of Patrick Tate, Anthony Tucker and Craig Rolfe on a farm track in Rettendon, near Chelmsford.
The trio were all shot at close range in December 1995 and Steele, of Ainger's Green, Great Bentley, and Jack Whomes, of Brockford, Suffolk, were convicted of the killings and sentenced to life in prison.
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Now Steele's solicitor, Chris Bowen, has revealed fresh evidence will be presented to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in the near future which he believes will set his client free.
The CCRC has already agreed to look into the case of Whomes again.
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Mr Bowen will hand the file in at the CCRC office in Birmingham and is hopeful the commission will refer the case on to the Court of Appeal for a fresh hearing.
The case centred around the evidence of supergrass Darren Nicholls, who testified against the men claiming to have been the getaway driver the night of the murders.
Steele and Whomes, 46, lost an appeal hearing last year after their case was reviewed back to the Court of Appeal by the CCRC.
Mr Bowen said yesterday: “The first thing is that as a consequence of spending the majority of the last few months re-reading all the case papers in respect of the investigation into the Rettendon murders, I have now unearthed some fresh evidence which will form the backbone of Michael's second application to the commission.
“Areas of particular interest to Michael Steele at the present time include the time of death - which we have always questioned - and the preparation of the telephone schedules by Essex Police.”
He added: “Last year, what many observers described as a strong appeal was rejected by the Court of Appeal which presented serious challenges to Michael and I when we came to consider afresh a new application to the commission.
“I am now of the firm view that the challenges presented by last year's judgement can now be met and that the commission will on the strength of the evidence refer this case back to the Court of Appeal.
“Ultimately I anticipate that at the next appeal the Crown Prosecution Service and Essex Police will be unable to seek to uphold these convictions.
“The Rettendon two have always insisted that they were innocent and the fresh evidence will now vindicate those protestations.”
A spokesman for Essex Police said: “Jack Whomes has applied to the CCRC and they have accepted this re-application and appointed a new case worker who will review it and then make a decision whether or not to refer to the Court of Appeal. I cannot comment on any other matter.”