A former gangster has claimed his father carried out a 1998 triple murder in Essex as experts claim the wrong men may be in jail – as one could be released within weeks.
Drug dealers Pat Tate, Tony Tucker and Craig Rolfe were shot dead in Rettendon, Essex, in 1995.
Three years later, Michael Steele, now 76, and Jack Whomes, 57, were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
But former Essex gangster Steve ‘Nipper’ Ellis, 55, has claimed the two men are innocent, and that his father, Sid, carried out the murders after threatening his family.
Steve ‘Nipper’ Ellis claims his father Sid called to say he had carried shot Pat Tate, Tony Tucker and Craig Rolfe dead in Rettendon, Essex, in 1995
He claimed the trio ‘threatened to cut off my sister’s finger’.
He claims his father Sid, who died four years ago, shot all three men in a Range Rover down a small farm track, and rang him the next day to confess.
Giving a Q&A session online, Ellis said: ‘Pat got shot, then he put one in Craig’s head, then he put in Tony’s head. They’d frozen, the sound in that Range Rover must have been frigging deafening.
‘Craig and Tony didn’t even know what happened. They were dead, one shot in the head.’
He added: ‘I’m telling the story now because my dad’s dead. He died four years ago and my dad wouldn’t care about me telling people, he wouldn’t care less we’ve got no problems.
Drug dealers Anthony Tucker (left) and Patrick Tate (right) were shot dead in a Range Rover in 1995. Two men were convicted of their murder, but two others have claimed they are innocent
Ellis claims his father laughed after telling him he had murder Craig Rolfe (pictured), along with Patrick Tate and Anthony Tucker
‘He phoned me up on that morning, he said “they’re dead, Pat, Tony and Craig, got them.”
‘I said “what’ve you done dad?” He was telling me, he was laughing. I just started crying I thought he was going to get nicked. It wasn’t until that night I heard the radio.’
Whomes, who has a parole hearing later this month, and Steele were convicted in 1998, but always denied the allegations.
Now a former Met Police detective believes both men are innocent.
Former Scotland Yard detective turned private investigator Dave McKelvey believe’s they’re innocent.
He told The Sunday Express his company, TM-Eye, has spent most of the last year looking into the murders.
Jack Whomes arrives at the Appeal Court on February 22, 2006 in London. Whomes was jailed for life in 1998, but is set to attend a parole hearing later this month
He said: ‘For years I believed Steele and Whomes were guilty. Ten months ago the TM-Eye Murder and Serious Crime Review Team began a review. What we have discovered is damning and deeply worrying.’
East End criminal Billy Jasper is said to have named the assassin and those who plotted the murder while under arrest for an unrelated matter in January 1996 – a month after the murders.
Mr McKelvey said Jasper’s evidence was ‘compelling,’ and has written to Essex Police to discuss its findings.
A spokesman from Essex Police said: ‘This case sits with the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) and while it remains with them we are unable to provide further comment so as not to prejudice any potential legal proceedings.
Steele, 76, (left) was convicted alongside Jack Whomes (right) for the same triple murder. Pictured in 2006
‘We of course always fully cooperate with the CCRC. But any new evidence should be routed through the CCRC for their consideration.
‘There was an exhaustive police investigation, and following the trial and convictions, the evidence has been further examined by the Criminal Cases Review Commission and the Court of Appeal.
‘We have fully cooperated with the CCRC and continue to do so.At this stage any new evidence must be submitted to the CCRC and we would therefore take our direction from them about any investigative action required.
‘Essex Boys’ murders: How three drug dealers were blasted to death with shotguns in 1995 bloodbath that inspired film starring Sean Bean
Tony Tucker, 38, Pat Tate, 37 and Craig Rolfe, 26, were gunned down with a pump-action shotgun inside a blue Range Rover on December 6, 1995, in what is believed to have been a row over drugs.
Just a month earlier the three gangsters are said to have given 18-year-old Leah Betts an ecstasy tablet in a Basildon club which led to her death.
The bloodbath scene of the triple murder of the three men down a snow-covered farm track in the small village of Rettendon inspired the 2000 Essex Boys movie, starring Sean Bean.
Tate sustained injuries to the head and body, while Rolfe and Tucker died from head wounds.
All three of the victims, who were part of the ‘Essex Boys’ drug gang, were blasted at a close range and were discovered in the vehicle by two farmers, Peter Theobald and Ken Jiggins, the next morning.
Essex Police were alerted by the witnesses and launched an investigation, led by Detective superintendent Ian Dibley.
At the time, Det supt Dibley said: ‘This is not an ordinary murder. It looks as if they were enticed down there.
‘As far as murders go, you don’t get anymore serious than this.’
One of the farmers, Mr Jiggins, told the Essex Chronicle: ‘It looked for all the world as if they were asleep.
‘It was only when we looked more closely that we realised they had been shot.’
Jack Whomes and Michael Steele were found guilty two years later and received three life sentences with a minimum of 15 years.
Mr Justice Hidden said: ‘There is little that can be said usefully to either of you at this stage. You two men were responsible, in my view, for taking away their lives in a violent and summary way.
‘You lured them to a quiet farm track and summarily executed them.’
Both the convicted murders still maintain they are not responsible for the Essex Boys murders.
Another gangster, London-based Billy Jasper, came forward admitting he had been paid £5,000 to take the killer to the scene of the murder – but was never charged.