ESSEX BOYS MURDERS: Over 120 crates of evidence from notorious case 'never disclosed to defence'
EXCLUSIVE: MORE than 120 crates of evidence for the Essex Boys murder cases have never been disclosed to the defence, Essex News and Investigations can reveal.
Drug dealers Pat Tate, 37, Tony Tucker, 38, and Craig Rolfe, 26, were found shot dead in a Range Rover on an isolated farm track in Rettendon, near Basildon, on the morning of December 7 1995, in what became the country's most notorious gangland assassinations and was the subject of several movies.
Three years later Michael Steele, 77, and Jack Whomes, 58, were convicted of the murders on the evidence of supergrass Darren Nicholls, who claimed to be their getaway driver after his arrest over a cannabis importation in May 1996.
Nicholls told the Old Bailey the three victims were lured there by Whomes and Steele on the pretence of a drug deal, but were instead blasted to death. The prosecution said they were shot between 6.48pm and 6.59pm the night before the bodies were found. Whomes, who was released on parole after 23 years in March and Steele, have always insisted they are innocent and the real killers escaped justice. There was no forensic evidence linking them to the scene and the prosecution relied on mobile phone cell site evidence, which was later found unreliable at a Court of Appeal hearing.
Lawyers acting for Jack Whomes and Michael Steele have been trying to get access to the undisclosed files for the last year after learning of their existence in an email from Kevin Macey, a former top Essex detective, who runs its cold case unit as a civilian officer following retirement. Former DCS Macey, who had some involvement in the original Rettendon investigation, informed the lawyers during email exchanges in the run up to Whome's parole hearing.
However, despite having a legal duty to disclose any evidence from a case that could undermine a prosecution, even after conviction, the force has refused to release them. Former Met Police DCI Dave McKelvey, now boss of private investigation firm TM Eye, is leading a review of the case which is focussed on statements made by criminal Billy Jasper, who claimed to be the getaway driver for a different killer before Nicholls came forward.
TM Eye has spent more than a year looking through the case files for an independent review after learning of concerns about the case and has not been contracted by the defence. Earlier this week we revealed how that review has uncovered how the late Patsy Clark, a former top-tier criminal, who laundered millions of pounds from the Brink's-Mat robbery, was named to police as the organiser of the Essex Boys murders, but they never questioned him about the killings. READ THE FULL STORY HERE: Mr McKelvey said: "These files need to be disclosed so it can be seen if there is any evidence in there that shows if this was a miscarriage of justice or not." Whomes and Steele, who remains a category A prisoner, have failed in a number of appeal bids.
REVIEW: Dave McKelvey in TM Eye's Rettendon murders incident room (Jon Austin)
Their latest application was made to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in May 2018, but there has yet to be an outcome. Essex Police refused to answer questions about the evidence files. A spokeswoman said: "There was an exhaustive police investigation and, following the trial and convictions, the evidence has been further examined by the Criminal Cases Review Commission and the Court of Appeal. "This case is currently under review with the CCRC and, and it would be inappropriate to comment further whilst their review is ongoing. "We of course always fully co-operate with the CCRC and would take direction from them about any investigative action required. Any new evidence identified should be routed through the CCRC for their consideration."