Ex-crim blows case of ‘Essex Boys’ killings wide open
A former criminal has told documentary makers that two men convicted of the notorious Rettendon Range Rover triple murders could be innocent after admitting on tape that he was “at the table” when the hit was planned by a Brink’s-Mat crook using a different hitman. The man, now in his 50s, was interviewed by producers of a planned Sky three-part series on the infamous gangland murders that is expected to air this year, the Sunday Express can reveal.
He claims the hit was arranged by the late Patsy “Bolt Eyes” Clark, who was jailed for six years in 1992 for helping to launder £4.2 million proceeds from the Brink’s-Mat robbery through bank accounts.
The story of the 1983 multi-million pound gold bullion heist is being told in BBC drama series The Gold, starring Hugh Bonneville.
The man said the three were murdered over money owed from an armed robbery and not a drug deal, as claimed by the prosecution during the successful prosecution of Jack Whomes and Michael Steele, in 1998.
The Sky series follows a team of former murder detectives who have been reviewing the case and believe that Whomes and Steele are innocent.
TM-Eye private detectives have spent about three years looking through case files for an independent review after learning of concerns about the case and have not been contracted by the defence.
The man, who refused to be named, provided this newspaper with a document that showed he confessed to being involved in planning the murders more than a decade ago but was never questioned by police.
Drug dealers Tony Tucker, 38, Pat Tate, 37, and Craig Rolfe, 26, were found shot dead in a Range Rover on a farm track in Rettendon, near Basildon, on the morning of December 7 1995.
The gory murders became the subject of several films, including the Rise of the Footsoldier series.
Whomes, 59, and Steele, 78, were convicted of the murders on evidence of supergrass Darren Nicholls, who claimed to be their getaway driver following his arrest over a cannabis importation in May 1996.
Both men protest their innocence, with Whomes released on parole in March 2021 and Steele due for a further parole hearing this year.
The man said: “I filmed a part which will be in a Sky Documentary. I’ve admitted on tape to being the man responsible for conspiracy to triple murder, confirming some of their theories connecting a major robbery in 1989, which I planned with others and the name of the person who organized the ‘hit’ as being Patsy Clark.
“But, I admitted it 11 years ago and they didn’t even interview me, so I doubt they will arrest me now. I don’t think Essex Police ever wants to re-open this case.”
Nicholls told the Old Bailey the three were shot between 6.48pm and 6.59pm the night before the bodies were found after being lured there over a drugs deal by Whomes and Steele.
But, the former crook told Sky that Clark, who died in 2019, was paid £140,000 to arrange the contract killing after Tucker allegedly failed to return the same amount of cash owed to the robbers.
The man produced an HMRC intelligence report of a phone call he made to Customs.
It recorded that he admitted to the officer in May 2011 he was involved in arranging the Rettendon murders.
The officer said the information was passed to Norfolk Police, where the man lived.
The report said: “About a month ago he had gone into (a) police station to give a statement about how he was privy to a triple murder ‘hit’.”
It added: “The source went on to say that the people who were found guilty didn’t do it.
“I asked the source if he was willing to give up the name of the person who ordered the hit and who actually carried it out. He replied that it was not as easy as that.
“The source then advised that he wanted to be arrested for conspiracy as he was around the table when the ‘hit’ was ordered… so that he can stand up in court and tell the truth.”
The ex-con said he was aged 25 he was working as a nightclub bouncer and asked Tucker, who was running doors in Romford if he could help arrange a security van armed robbery.
He said they put together a five-man team to carry out the robbery, including an inside man, but our source was arrested with a stolen car the night before.
The four others still went ahead in 1989 and netted about £400,000.
He said two of the robbers went to Spain, leaving Tucker to launder some of the money.
On their return, four people were charged, including the source for aiding and abetting, and later convicted in 1991.
Three who took part in the robbery got 15 years each, while the source was sentenced to six years.
Tucker played no part in the actual robbery and was never charged over it despite being spoken to by police.
The man and the three others later got released on appeal in 1994 and he said they wanted the £140,000 from Tucker.
He said: “He wouldn’t pay it back so Patsy Clark was paid £140,000 to take out Tucker.”
During Whomes and Steele’s trial, another criminal called Billy Jasper had claimed to be the getaway driver for a lone gunman named only as Mr D in court, who killed them at around midnight, but the judge told the jury to discount his evidence.
Jasper had been arrested on suspicion of a separate robbery on January 14 1996, just over a month after the murders.
He hand-wrote a statement saying he was paid £5,000 to drive a named killer to the murder scene and Clark had arranged the hit.
Whomes and Steele, who insist they are innocent, have failed in a number of appeal bids.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) is considering their latest application.
HMRC would not comment on its intelligence report and Norfolk Police refused to confirm or deny if it passed the man’s confession to Essex Police.
An Essex Police spokeswoman said: “Due to the sensitive nature of intelligence we receive and how we use it, we cannot comment on specifics relating to confidential information.
“There was an exhaustive police investigation into the murders, which resulted in the conviction of Michael Steele and Jack Whomes.
“This case is currently under review with the CCRC. It would be inappropriate to comment further while the review is ongoing.”
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