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The Sun

"They were vicious, nasty bullies. They will not be missed.
They were scum.Britain is a much better place without them."


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 were.

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 his tongue."

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."

Giant of the underworld.. massacre victim Tate, remembered by his mother as "a lovable little rogue" in childhood, grew into a vicious gangland heavy

Out of jail.. with girlfriend Sarah Saunders at pal's wedding

Rolling it in... Tate even had a share in this white Roller

Holiday... with his ex-wife Donna on trip to sun in 1980's

Tony Tucker

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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 suppliers.

He and Rolfe were suspected of killing rival dealer Kevin Whitaker, 27, by injecting lethal drugs into his groin.

Craig Rolfe

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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 complex.

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 violent.

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 court.
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