Essexboys - Articles
28/04/02 - Whatever happened to the Essex Boys?
Former gang member posted autopsy pics on Net as a warning to any would-be drug dealers
By Andy Lea
Sunday Sport

THESE grisy pictures of three evil drug barons blasted to death with pump-action shotguns have been posted on the Internet by an ex-member of the infamous Essex Boys gang. Known locally as "The Firm", the Essex Boys' reign of terror came abruptly to an end in December, 1995, when kingpins Pat Tate, 37, Craig Rolfe, 26 and 38-year-old Tony Tucker were shot at close-range in a quiet country road in Rettendon, Essex.

The gangsters had run the Class A drug trade in the area, dealing in ecstasy pills implicated in the death of Leah Betts, 18, a month earlier. Two rival drug dealers Michael Steele, 57, and 41-year-old Jack Whomes, were given triple life sentences in January, 1998, for the slaying on the evidence of getaway driver and registered police informer Darren Nicholls, who testified against them after being arrested with 10kg of cannabis resin.

Sinister

The shocking police crime scene snaps have been posted on the Web by former Firm member Bernard O'Mahoney, who believes the wrong men were jailed for his partners' murders. And ex-bouncer O'Mahoney, 42, defended the gory photos, saying he hopes they'll encourage people from the Essex underworld to come forward with information.

He said: "The evidence is not there to convince me of Michael and Jack's guilt. I see nothing wrong in publishing photos of three genuinely-sinister people and how they met their end. "They are responsible for Leah Bett's death and two others. Tucker used to run the door at Club UK, where the ecstasy deaths of Abdreas Bouzies and Kevin Jones happened."

The pictures leave little to the imagination, showing how the villains' faces were torn apart as they sat in a Range Rover. One of the men still holds the steering wheel. O'Mahoney, from Peterborough, said: "If the sight of the gangsters blasted to death prevents one youngster from taking up crime I think it is worth it. "When you get shot you don't normally fall over clutching your chest like on TV. You get put on a stretcher and your chest gets scraped off the wall.

He added: "The truth is it could be anybody who shot them. Everyone that met the boys had it in for them. They robbed drug shipments and dealers and terrorised everyone they met. "That's why I'm hoping the pictures will spur people to contact me anonymously if they want." Steele's gang and The Firm had worked together on the massive importation and distribution of drugs from Holland and Belgium.

The Firm became notorious for brutal punishments they meted out to rivals and anyone who could not afford to pay up. At the 1998 Old Bailey trial, the prosecution said Steele was afraid the three men were going to kill him in revenge for the poor quality of some cannabis he'd supplied. So he lured them to the remote spot and hid in bushes with Whomes armed with the shotguns.

Supergrass Nicholls told the court how the killers had laughed as they climbed into the getaway car after the bloodbath. He said: "Steele said he felt like the Angel of Death and said "They won't f*** with us again."

Squealed

He also told the court how Steele casually boasted that Tate had "squealed like a baby" as shotgun pellets ripped into his head, face and chest.

Tucker had his brains blown out with three shots in the head, Steele said. Rolfe was hit in the face and neck. An Essex Police spokesman last night denied the force supplied the snaps. He said: "We can confirm the photos were taken by our crime staff. Copies were given to the defence counsel during the trial of those accused of the murders."

The conviction against Steele and Whomes, who've always denied their involvement, went to the Criminal Cases Review Board, which investigates suspected miscarriages of justice, in January. Since their conviction a former cellmate of Nicholls at a special prison "supergrass" unit has told a crime reporter how Nicholls told him he lied to police about what happened in order to escape a lengthy prison sentence. He is now living under a false identity outside the UK.
Contact : bernard.omahoney@bernardomahoney.com
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