| 21/01/98 - ESSEXDRUG GANG
SLAYINGS : THE FIRM - 3-PAGE PULLOUT
By IAN HEPBURN
"They were vicious, nasty bullies.
They will not be missed.
ESSEXDRUG GANG SLAYINGS: DEAD VILLAIN No 1 PAT TATE
They were scum.Britain is a much better place without
By VICTIM STEVE ELLIS
TATE WAS A MONSTER ...HE WAS GOING TO SNIP OFF MY LITTLE
SISTER'S FINGERS ONE AT A TIME
By IAN HEPBURN
THEY were called The Firm ... one of the most evil gangs
of crooks known to detectives. They died as they had lived
violently and at the hands of killers as brutal as they
Last night, as a 19-week murder trial ended, a small-time
crook told of his terror after straying into the depraved
world of Pat Tate, Craig Rolfe and Tony Tucker, a modern-day
version of the Krays Steve "Nipper" Eills revealed
how bodybuilder Tate put the frighteners on him by threatening
to kidnap his teenage sister and cut off her fingers one
by one Ellis, just 5ft 5ins, became the target of a terrifying
vendetta after being blamed for an attempt on Tate's life.
Ellis was warned that a £10,000 contract had been
put on his head while he was serving time for firearms
offences And when he came out of jail, he said, he was
relentlessly pursued by Tate and drugs overlord Tucker.
Ellis said: "When I was in prison I had numerous
death threats And as soon as I got out I was ordered to
leave town "I was told if I ignored the warnings
they would retaliate.
A hitman went to my dad's door looking for me. "My
family were told Tucker and Tate planned to snatch my
little sister and take off her fingers one by one. She
was only 15 and terrified. The threats never stopped."
Ellis's run-in with the heavies had begun when they fell
out over a comment he made in a telephone conversation.
He said "It was all over some silly remark I made
on the phone Next thing I knew Tucker and Rolfe came round
to my home. "Tucker stuck a loaded pistol to my temple
and threatened to kill me They then came after me with
a machete and threatened to hack off my hand and foot
Then they looted my house and left human filth plastered
everywhere. "I couldn't take any more of it and went
out and bought a Smith and Wesson pistol for £600
and a bulletproof vest for £400 I might be small,
but someone had to stand up to them "
Ellis was blamed by the gang for an assassination attempt
on Tate 12 months before he was finally shot dead. A brick
was lobbed through a bathroom window at Tate's £120,000
bungalow as he was getting ready for a party When he peered
outside, a gunman opened fire with a revolver from close
range. Tate raised his right arm to shield his face. The
bullet hit his wrist, travelled up his arm and smashed
bones in his elbow.
Ellis was quizzed by police after being named by the gang
as being the shadowy attacker. He said: "Tate identified
me as the gunman And Tucker and Rolfe told police I had
chased them with a pump-action shotgun "I was arrested
but the case was never pursued because checks ruled out
my gun as the weapon But Pat Tate was 100 per cent sure
it was me and swore revenge".
Ellis was invited to visit Tate in hospital after the
attack to "sort out a misunderstanding ". But
he found out Tate had a gun hidden in his hospital bed
and was planning to execute him as he stepped through
the door. Tate - on parole from an armed robbery sentence
at the time of the shooting - was later sent back to jail
for ten months for smuggling the weapon into hospital.
Ellis, who served 7 and half months for illegally possessing
firearms, said of the three men who died "They were
nasty, vicious bullies They will not be missed They were
scum And Britain is a better place without them "
While Tate was in hospital recovering from being shot
he revealed to his molher Marie 60, how Rolfe and Tucker
had killed a rival drug gang member with a poison jab.
They ambushed the man, Kevin Whitaker, and first paralysed
him by forcing him to snort a substance used by vets to
numb horses before castration. As Whitaker's muscles froze,
the gloating gangsters pierced his groin with a syringe
and pumped a deadly concoction into his blood. His body
was dumped in a ditch near Basildon, Essex. Tate was high
on drugs smuggled into hospital at the time he made the
revelations.According to his mother, the drugs "loosened
Tate's long life of crime was highlighted in 1988 when
he staged a Great Escape-style motorbike getaway after
knocking out three police escorts in court at Billericay.
Helped by friends who blocked the path of his pursuers,
he ran from the court building and jumped on to a powerful
1,OOOcc motorbike. The 14Omph machine roared off through
the crowded high street and Tate got away.
He had been in court charged with armed robbery after
a knife gang held up a Happy Eater restaurant in nearby
Laindon and locked staff in a cold store. He was caught
after police traced a phone call he made to say where
the workers were. After his dramatic escape Tate fled
to Spain but was re-arrested when he crossed over to Gibraltar,
which comes under British law, to pick up a pal from the
airport. He was jailed for ten years.
While in prison, Tate became a minder to cop killer Kenny
Noye, the fugitive now suspected of the M25 road rage
murder of Stephen Cameron at Swanley, Kent. Police have
never said openly that Noye was prime suspect but did
name him in an internal force magazine not meant for outside
eyes. Tate and Noye became pals when they were both inmates
at Swaleside Prison on the Isle of Sheppey.
Noye got a job as an orderly at the jail gym where Tate
worked out every day. Tate then persuaded Noye to invest
in importing Ecstasy tablets from Holland and Noye coughed
up £30,000. Tate was the product of a broken home,
his parents having split up when he was five. And his
first brush with the law came when he was only 12.
While the family were living in St Neots, Cambridgeshire,
the young Tate found a pouch stuffed with money on the
roof of a parked car. It turned out to be the £300
fund for a police Christmas party. Tate blew the lot on
leather jackets and a record player for his pals. He took
cab rides to restaurants in Cambridge 18 miles away and,
according to his mum, tipped the drivers the equivalent
of a week's wages.
His mum said: "The first we knew was when police
knocked on the door. They said they had all the other
boys' evidence. "Pat told us he had been hiding the
money in an outside toilet at an old man's house nearby.
The police tricked him into admitting every minor thing
he had ever done in his life, including stealing rubbers
from Woolworth's. "They decided to make an example
of him so he was put in an approved school at Grimsby
and that corrupted his mind."
Mrs Tate said of her son as a boy: "He was no angel,
just a lovable little rogue with a great big cheeky grin.
When he was at school I was always getting letters saying
things had gone missing. "He once gave his younger
brother Russell a bike as a present. He was thrilled.
Then some kids beat the hell out of Russell and snatched
the bike off him. Evidently Pat had pinched it.
He managed to get a butcher's apprenticeship and we thought
he had settled down. But then he bought a car and got
involved in a police chase from St Neots to Chelmsford
70 miles away." Tate's adult life was a whirl of
drugs, booze, birds and body-building. His criminal career
brought rich rewards, including a Mercedes and a gleaming
white Rolls he jointly owned. Handsome, muscular Tate
was a magnet for women.
After the break-up of his marriage to wife Donna, he dated
pretty blonde Sarah Saunders. She became his longtime
girlfriend and they had a son. They split up just weeks
before Tate's murder. Police suspected Sarah was romantically
involved with Micky Steele, who killed Tate. But Sarah
insisted in court Steele was only ever a father figure.
Tate's mum knew he was a hardman.
And she was astonished to discover one of his killers
rode alongside him in the Range Rover on the night of
the massacre. She said: "My boy never went anywhere
without his mobile phone . . . and his gun."
ESSEXDRUG GANG SLAYINGS: VILLIAN No 2 TONY TUCKER
Hardman killed 'E' girl Leah
MAN-mountain Tony Tucker was the drug baron ultimately
responsible for the death of tragic Leah Betts. The 6ft
2ins bodybuilder - one of the most feared gangsters in
Essex - was a Mr Big who selected doormen for South East
nightclubs. He used them to control dealers and runners
peddling pills inside.
His patch Included Raquel's in Basildon, Essex. The fatal
Ecstasy tablet taken by birthday girl Leah was bought
there in November 1995. Boxing fan Tucker, 38, was also
a minder to former WBC supermiddleweight champ Nigel Benn.
His father Ronald Tucker, 63, died of shock when told
hitmen had killed his son.
Lavish Tucker built up a lucrative drugs empire importing
from Holland and distributing in the South East. He even
exported to the Canaries. Riches from his villainy funded
a lavish lifestyle, It included a £250,000 hacienda-style
bungalow at Fobbing, Essex, with stables and views.
In the front garden was a statue of a naked goddess and
Greek urns adorned the wall. A garage block housed his
luxury motors, including a black Porsche with the number
plate TT9 and Mercedes. Tucker was paranoid about security.
His home had a wall, iron gates and a video Intercom.
Dogs patrolled the grounds. One Sunday, neighbours were
awoken by booming music. Tucker had hired a disco to play
while he lay in bed with lover Anna Whitehead. Tucker
ruled his empire by fear, handing out punishment beatings
to debtors. He had a reputation for stealing drugs from
He and Rolfe were suspected of killing rival dealer Kevin
Whitaker, 27, by injecting lethal drugs into his groin.
ESSEXDRUG GANG SLAYINGS: VILLIAN No 3 CRAIG ROLFE
Thug who was born in prison
CRAIG Rolfe was born inside London's forbidding Holloway
Prison - and grew up to be a violent cocaine addict. His
dad Brian was murdered - and Rolfe was born while mum
Loraine was serving 18 months for lying to police about
the killing. Barrow boy Brian, 28, was bludgeoned to death
as he lay asleep in bed with Loraine.
Her lover John Kennedy, 19, crept into their home in Basildon,
Essex, on Christmas Eve 1968 and beat Brian with a bowling
skittle. He told Loraine: " I have done it to prove
how much I love you." The pair were charged with
murder and he was Jailed for life.
Loraine, who was three months pregnant, was cleared -
but jailed for 18 months for making false statements.
Twenty years later, Rolfe became a runner for Tony Tucker
and Pat Tate's drug gang. Obsession Over the years he
was well rewarded and paid cash for the £80,000
detached home he shared with girlfriend Diana Evans and
their daughter Georgia, eight, near the Lakeside shopping
He shared his cronies' passion for body-building and flash
motors - he owned the Range Rover they were killed in.
He also loved to be seen strutting through the restaurants,
bars and nightclubs of Essex. In the months before their
deaths, 26-year-old Rolfe and Tucker became increasingly
They were caught on video handing out punishment beatings
to cash strapped drug customers and small-time dealers.
Other films showed them slashing the faces of their victims.
But despite the evidence, not one of their terrified prey
would make a statement to detectives, let alone go to