'Essex boys' killers get appeal date
TWO men serving life for the notorious Essex Boys murders will have their appeals to clear their names heard on January 16 next year.Michael Steele, of Great Bentley, and Jack Whomes, of Brockford, are serving life terms for the murders of Patrick Tate, Anthony Tucker and Craig Rolfe in Rettendon, Essex, in 1995.
TWO men serving life for the notorious Essex Boys murders will have their appeals to clear their names heard on January 16 next year.
Michael Steele, of Great Bentley, and Jack Whomes, of Brockford, are serving life terms for the murders of Patrick Tate, Anthony Tucker and Craig Rolfe in Rettendon, Essex, in 1995.
They were also found guilty of conspiring to import cannabis into the UK, along with a third man, Peter Thomas Corry, from Clacton, who was jailed for four-and-a-half years.
Their initial appeals were dismissed but their cases were referred back to the Appeal Court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission - the independent body that investigates suspected miscarriages of justice - in September last year.
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The reference was made on the basis that fresh evidence arguably showed that a crucial witness at the men's trial, Darren Nicholls, had entered into media arrangements whereby he was to be paid, or expected to be paid, for his story.
There was also new evidence from a mobile telephone expert, who testified at the trial that it was more likely that certain calls from Whomes' mobile were made from a pub car park, as he had claimed, rather than from near the murder scene.
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The prosecution had contended the three victims were shot dead in a Range Rover in December 1995 in a gangland dispute over drugs. The story of the deaths was later made into the film Essex Boys, starring Sean Bean.
At a preliminary hearing yesterday at London's Appeal Court, Lord Justice Latham, Mr Justice Newman and Mr Justice Grigson gave directions for the hearings of the three men's appeals.
The judges directed the appeals by Steele, Whomes and Corry should take place on January 16, with a time estimate of five days.
There will be a further directions hearing before Christmas, at which it will be decided which witnesses are to give evidence during the appeal.
Whomes' brother, John, his mother Pam, and sister Jayne Barrett were at yesterday's hearing.
Mr Whomes, who lives near Stowmarket, protested outside the court with banners and on Thursday outside Essex Police headquarters in Chelmsford.
The 42-year-old said last night : “We are over the moon from the hearing. We know we have won the appeal before it even comes.
“We are at the end now. I have got one more visit to the High Court and then it will be over and done with. It's been a long, long fight but we know there is light at the end of the tunnel. We can see the daylight and we will be walking out of the High Court for the last time in January.
“He has got to stay in there for a few more months. We're a bit disappointed that it won't be happening before Christmas.”
Whomes' mother, Pam, 67, who also lives near Stowmarket, said she thought the cost of the case, which they have estimated at £10million, had been a waste of taxpayers' money.
She said she had not got words to describe how it would feel to walk out of the Appeal Court with her son.
Looking back at the case, she said: “I'm really angry, I really am. It's been terrible without him here. The only think I am grateful for is that I have still got him. I shall fight forever if I have to.”