I saw the golden age of English gangsters… the Essex Boys murders were the end – now a new mob reigns
A FORMER criminal has said the infamous Essex Boy murders marked the end of an era in gangland London.
Tony Tucker, 38, Pat Tate, 36, and Craig Rolfe have died after being lured onto a country lane in rural Essex. The three men, who were in a Range Rover, were shot in the head.
In 1998, two men, Michael Steele and Jack Whomes, were sentenced to life imprisonment.
The triple homicide inspired the films of the 2000 film Essex Boys starring Sean Bean and The Rise of the Footsoldier.
An investigation by former Met detective David McKelvey has reportedly uncovered new evidence in the case.
Mr McKelvey, now of TM Eye, believes the new information casts doubt on the convictions. His findings are helping to form a new three-part series on Sky documentaries
Former gangster character Dave Courtney, who is working on the documentary, said the case marked a turning point in London crime.
Mr Courtney told The Sun: “The world of the Essex Boys still exists but it has changed.
“There was a time when London crime was dominated by Londoners. But that’s no longer the case.”
Mr Courtney said the crime hierarchy in London was dominated by people from Eastern Europe.
Mr Courtney, who claims to have spent time in Belmarsh Prison as a young man, said notorious crimes like the Brinks Matt mugging were part of an era that is now gone forever.
Mr Courtney, from south London, said the so-called Essex Boy murders had changed the way criminal groups operated in London.
He said, “This incident caused too much excitement for certain people.” Such things tend to be avoided these days.
“People tend to just disappear now.”
Mr Courtney explained that the disappearances of people resulted in much less media interest.
He said he remembers the incident well but wasn’t shocked when it happened.
Mr Courtney explained that the three victims were involved in a certain lifestyle that involved enormous risks.
He said: “It’s part of this life. But when you are in this life, you cannot worry or be afraid.”
Mr Courtney said he believed Steele and Whomes’ convictions could be “uncertain”.
He added that he believes the three victims were murdered in connection with a drug deal dispute.
The three victims had controlled the supply of ecstasy at Basildon nightclub Raquels, where the tragic Leah Betts had taken the drug.
The teenager was left in a coma after taking an ecstasy pill at her 18th birthday party and died in hospital 15 days later. Her death prompted a nationwide outcry about drugs in nightclubs.
Five months after the murder of ex-BT engineer Darren Nicholls was caught in a drug robbery. Nicholls agreed to tell police who was responsible for the Rettendon murders.
After Whomes and Steele were sentenced to life imprisonment, Nicholls was given a new identity as a protected witness.
But now investigators investigating the case on TV say Essex Police have dismissed the taped evidence, which tells a very different story.
The lead initially came from a police informant known as “Witness A” who claims he drove a hitman to the scene, The Sun revealed.
The tapes, which are publicly heard for the first time, outline a sinister conspiracy to take down violent cocaine addict Craig Rolfe, 26, his bodybuilder “enforcer” Pat Tate, 36, and Tucker, a close friend of boxing champ Nigel Benn.
At a meeting in a hotel room, the anonymous person said: “There was an armed robbery. The robbery is really the key to everything.
“It was a van full of cash, £495,000 was stolen.
“The whole thing was a hoax, if you will, because shortly after, some of the robbers splashed the money. It didn’t take long for everyone to know what had happened.
“We were arrested and while we were in prison Tony Tucker was given some of the money. It was given to him for safekeeping.
“When we got out we asked for the money back but it didn’t come and excuses were made, it’s tied up, something like that, he couldn’t get it.
“By then he was on drugs and steroids running around doing all sorts of deals and by the end we knew it (the money) just wasn’t going to come back.
“He thought he was bigger than everyone else. He thought nobody could do anything. But he was wrong.
“A meeting was held and the issue resolved.”
The fixer goes on to admit he paid the money to have her shot, adding: “I didn’t care about the money, the money was irrelevant. It was the headmaster. Tucker was the target, the other two were collateral damage.”
Investigator and former Det Supt Dave McKelvey told The Sun: “I firmly believe there has been a miscarriage of justice.
“Over the past several years, Whomes has missed seeing his young children grow up while Steele is an old man almost institutionalized.
“Times have changed so much since her initial incarceration that when I mention social media to Steele, he has no idea what I’m talking about.”
Essex Police stand by the convictions.
A spokesman for the force said: “There was a full police investigation into the murders of Pat Tate, Tony Tucker and Craig Rolfe in Rettendon on December 6, 1995, which resulted in the conviction of Michael Steele and Jack Whomes for their murders.
“Since those convictions, this case has been before the Court of Appeals again, in 1999 and 2006.
“These appeals have focused on the evidence of Witness A and the credibility of the original prosecution’s key witness
“Both appeals were dismissed and in 2006 Lord Justice Kay commented that there was no ‘element of uncertainty’ as to the original convictions of the two defendants.
“This case was also reviewed by the Criminal Cases
Review Commission, which only made the decision in January 2023 not to refer this case back to the Court
“We welcome this decision as this case has been extensively investigated over the past 27 years and no new evidence has been found that would challenge the original verdicts.”
The Essex murders begin at 9.25pm tonight on Sky Documentaries.