- 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
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.
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
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
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
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.