On the evening of December 6th 1995, three men were shot at point blank range on an isolated farm track in Rettendon, Essex. The bloody remains of Pat Tate, Tony Tucker and Craig Rolfe were discovered by local farmers in a range rover, their faces so disfigured that they could only be identified by fingerprints. The trio were involved in organised crime and had recently had a fall-out with Michael Steele; a local drugs dealer who had reputedly supplied them with a shipment of 'bad drugs'. Tate had allegedly boasted he would kill Steele, who had formed a close relationship with Tate's former girlfriend. Two men were arrested for the murders, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Since then, Jack Whomes and Michael Steele have always protested their innocence, and two appeals against their convictions have been turned down. In the light of new evidence, a new appeal is underway, and it seems there could well be another reversal of a miscarriage of justice hitting the headlines in the not-too distant future. Whomes and Steele's convictions were purely down to the word of one man: Darren Nicholls - drug peddler and police informant - turned Queen's evidence and testified that he received a phone call from Whomes asking him to pick up Steele and himself from the scene of the murder. Years later, fresh examination has revealed that none of the calls made from Whomes' mobile were made from the scene of the crime. 'Supergrass' Nicholls now has a new identity and is living in secrecy, doubtless looking over his shoulder and wondering if the underworld will one day track him down. So, did Nicholls lie in court? Well, he was facing a lengthy jail sentence after being caught in possession of 10kg of cannabis, so lying to the court was certainly a get-out-of-jail card if ever there was one, with the assurance of police protection and a new career in a new town. He also received royalties from a book written pre-trial ("Bloggs 19"), and part-payment for a TV programme that was never aired. Bloggs, followed by a number, is used to identify inmates of the Protected Witness Unit (which does not officially exist). It houses members of criminal gangs who have decided to break the underworld code and turn 'supergrass'.
Now, over 10 years later, we may be moving closer towards the truth but if Whomes and Steele are innocent, who carried out the murders? Carlton Leach, a close friend of the trio, doesn't know the answer but Julian Gilbey's film does offer a few very interesting theories. I'll be continuing my look at this controversial story with a review of Gilbey's film and the DVD throughout the course of this week.