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EXCLUSIVE: ESSEX BOYS MURDERS: Jack Whomes Parole Board hearing delayed again due to coronavirus

ONE of two men convicted over the notorious Essex Boys triple gangland murders has had his bid for freedom delayed a second time due to coronavirus. Jack whomes, 57, (above left) was due to go before the Parole Board on Friday, July 31, to argue he should be released, but the case was adjourned a second time.

He had been due to have a remote hearing in June, but it was delayed until July 31 after the panel said it wanted a face-to-face hearing, which had not been possible due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The Parole Board blamed coronavirus for the fiurther delay.

A spokesman said: "The Whomes case has been deferred. There is yet to be a new date set but I expect it to be listed in the coming weeks.

"It looks like it is the knock on delays from the coronavirus again." Whomes and Michael Steele, 76, (above right) were convicted of the notorious murders in 1998. Supergrass Darren Nicholls told the Old Bailey he drove the pair to a remote farm track in Rettendon, near Basildon, on December 6, 1995. He said the two men then blasted drug dealers Pat Tate, 37, Tony Tucker, 38, and Craig Rolfe, 26, to death with shotguns while they sat in a Range Rover. The pair have always protested their innocence. It is believed Whomes, who has been described as a model prisoner after gaining a number of qualifications in jail, is likely to be released once the hearing goes ahead.

MURDERED: L-R Pat Tate, Craig Rolfe and Tony Tucker

He had his sentence reduced from 25 to 22 years for good behaviour in 2018. In March it emerged that prior to the coronavirus lockdown Whomes was working a six-day week as a mechanic in Ipswich after being transferred to an open prison.The three murder victims were suspected of being the suppliers of a batch of ecstasy pills that led to the death of Leah Betts, 18.

An image of her on a life support machine made national headlines as a warning to others. Several films have been made about the murders, including the original Essex Boys in 2000, starring Sean Bean, Larry Lamb and Tom Wilkinson.

Steele remains a category A prisoner in HMP Full Sutton in East Yorkshire and is not currently due for release after his bid to be moved to an open prison was rejected by the Parole Board last year. A Criminal Case Review Commission re-examination of the convictions of Whomes and Steele is nearing completion.

It centres on a leaked Met Police corruption report from 2002 called Operation Tiberius, which details that a criminal gang boss was recorded by the force less than three weeks before the murders offering to a retired Met detective to "take out" those responsible for supplying the drugs that killed Leah Betts.The existence of the recording was not disclosed to the jury during the trial. A source close to Whomes' legal team said: "Everyone is confident that Jack Whomes will be released from prison. "He will then continue the fight to clear his name."

Essex Police insists that the right men were convicted over the murders.

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