ESSEX BOYS MURDERS: Cop who arrested supergrass Darren Nicholls believes Whomes and Steele innocent
A TEAM of former murder detectives has claimed the wrong men may have been jailed over the notorious Essex Boys triple murders more than 25 years ago, as one of them could be released from prison within weeks.
Jack Whomes, 58, who has a parole hearing later this month, and Michael Steele, 76, have served 23 years in jail after being convicted in January 1998 of the gangland executions of three drug dealers who were shot dead in a Range Rover.
The bodies of Pat Tate, 37, (top left) Tony Tucker, 38, (top middle) and Craig Rolfe, 26, (top right) were found in the vehicle parked on a remote farm track in Rettendon, Essex, on December 7 1995.
Whomes and Steele were jailed on the evidence of supergrass Darren Nicholls who told the Old Bailey he acted as getaway driver for the pair, who he said lured the victims to the scene on the pretence of discussing drugs.
They have always insisted their innocence and no forensic evidence linked them to the murder, but mobile phone site cell evidence was also relied upon.
INNOCENT? Michael Steele (left) and Jack Whomes have always insisted their innocence (Essex Police)
Now, a team of former Met Police investigators, including one who arrested Nicholls on suspicion of drug importation before he agreed to act for the prosecution, claims to have found evidence that supports the statements of another alleged getaway driver who named different killers four months before Nicholls gave his account.
It comes after former Essex criminal Steve 'Nipper' Ellis, who shot Tate before the murders and was arrested during the investigation, claimed in a YouTube video his late father Sid was the real killer.
Former Met Police DCI Dave McKelvey arrested Mr Nicholl's in connection with a drugs importation in May 1996, five months after the murders, before he was handed over to Essex Police and agreed to give evidence against Whomes and Steele who were arrested the same day.
Mr McKelvey, who now runs the private investigation firm TM-Eye, had always believed the right men were convicted.
But TM-Eye's top investigators have spent the past year investigating the Rettendon murders, and are now convinced they are innocent.
Mr McKelvey posted on Linkedin: "For years I believed that Steele and Whomes were guilty.
"Ten months ago the TM-Eye Murder and Serious Crime Review Team began a review.
"What we have discovered is damning and deeply worrying.
"‘Hard nosed’ former experienced senior detectives are all convinced that there has been a serious miscarriage of justice and that Steele and Whomes are innocent.
TM Eye believes evidence supports the account of East End criminal Billy Jasper, who told police he was the getaway driver for another named assassin just over a month after the murders, but was dismissed by Essex Police without any further investigation.
Mr Mckelvey added: "The evidence of William ‘Billy’ Jasper is compelling.
"He was arrested at Forest Gate police station on January 14 1996 for a different matter, just over a month after the murders of Tate, Tucker and Rolfe.
"He immediately asked to see the CID and gave a detailed account of his involvement in the murders.
"Essex police were called and Jasper took the officers out to show them where he had gone that night.
EXECUTION: The bodies were found in this Range Rover on a remote snowy track (Essex Police)
"Despite inclement weather and darkness he directed them to the scene via a back route which he could not have known unless he had been there.
"He gave a detailed account over three days of who was involved, how it was planned and why and who did what. He named the assassin and those who orchestrated it.
"Incredibly Essex police released Jasper without carrying out any enquiries into his account."
Many believe Whomes could be released following his parole hearing after being allowed to work as a mechanic on day release from an open prison last year on grounds of good behaviour.
In December 2019 Steele failed in a bid to be moved to an open prison, but claimed at his parole hearing "police corruption" was responsible for his "wrongful conviction."
The pair made their fourth application to the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC), to refer the convictions back to the Court of Appeal on grounds of "new evidence," in May 2018.
A CCRC spokesman said: "Mr Steele and Mr Whomes have applied to the CCRC a number of times. On the first applications we referred their convictions to the Court of Appeal in 2002, but their convictions were upheld in 2004.
"Their current fourth application arrived in May of 2018 and their case is still under review."
TM Eye has written to Essex Police asking to meet to discuss its findings.
A force spokesman said: "There was an exhaustive police investigation, and following the trial and convictions, the evidence has been further examined by the CCRC and the Court of Appeal.
"We have received a letter from TM-Eye but have not been provided with the detailed report into their investigation or findings.
"This case sits with the CCRC and while it remains with them we are unable to provide further comment so as not to prejudice any potential legal proceedings.
"We of course always fully cooperate with the CCRC, but any new evidence should be routed through the CCRC for consideration."