‘Essex Boys’ killer Jack Whomes has been pictured for the first time since he was released from prison 22 years into his life sentence.
Jack Whomes, 59, and his accomplice Michael Steele, 76, were jailed in 1998 over the gangland shooting of three men who were found dead in a Range Rover near a farm in Rettendon, Essex, in 1995.
Patrick Tate, 37, Anthony Tucker, 38, and Craig Rolfe, 26 – who were part of the ‘Essex Boys’ drug gang – were killed with a pump-action shotgun in December 1995 in what is believed to have been a row over drugs.
The three men’s executions have been linked to the death of Leah Betts who died after she was sold an ecstasy pill.
In 2018, Whomes saw his 25-year sentence reduced by two years due to his ‘exemplary behaviour’.
He was cleared for release following a Parole Board hearing and is now living with his mother in Suffolk working as a car mechanic.
Jack Whomes, 59, was released from prison after serving 22 years of his life sentence and has been pictured for the first time since he was freed
Patrick Tate, Anthony Tucker and Craig Rolfe (from left to right) were all found shot dead in a Range Rover on an isolated farm track at Rettendon, Essex in December 1995
Police officers with the Range Rover on the farm track in Rettendon where the three men were found dead
He would have been let out earlier had he confessed to the murders.
Whomes’s mother told The Sun: ‘Jack is out and is doing ok and has a good job.’
His brother John, 58, added: ‘We are over the moon that Jack is home and with his mum, which is what he has always wanted.
‘But we are still fighting to clear Jack’s name, along with Michael Steele’s.’
Whomes has continued to launch a series of legal bids to clear his name. The Criminal Case Review Commission is looking into the convictions.
A summary of the parole decision to release Whomes reads: ‘After considering the circumstances of his offending, the progress made while in custody and the evidence presented at the hearing, the panel was satisfied that Mr Whomes was suitable for release.’
It adds: ‘The panel heard that Mr Whomes maintains that he did not commit the Index Offences and as a result little or no work had been completed to address offending behaviour.
‘Since being in an open prison, there had been no concerns reported about his behaviour, which the panel was told had been exemplary.’
In 2018, Whomes saw his 25-year sentence reduced by two years due to his ‘exemplary behaviour’ and is now living with his mother in Suffolk working as a car mechanic
Jack Whomes, 59, who was jailed in 1998 over the shooting of three men, has been released from prison
Whomes will have to follow strict licence conditions which ban him from visiting the relatives of the victims and will have to inform the authorities of any driving he does.
He will also have to report to his probation officer for meetings.
Patrick Tate, 37, Anthony Tucker, 38, and Craig Rolfe, 26, were killed with a pump-action shotgun after their vehicle was ambushed in December 1995.
Tate sustained injuries to the head and body, while Rolfe and Tucker died from head wounds.
All three of the victims were discovered in the vehicle by two farmers, Peter Theobald and Ken Jiggins, the next morning.
Michael Steele, 76, (left) was convicted alongside Whomes (right) for the same triple murder. Pictured in 2006
The triple murder down a snow-covered farm track in the small village of Rettendon later inspired the 2000 Essex Boys movie, starring actor Sean Bean.
Essex Police were soon 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.’
Whomes and Steele were found guilty of the killings two years later and received three life sentences with a minimum of 15 years.
Sentencing the pair 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.’
The killing in the small village of Rettendon was made into a 2000 film starring Sean Bean
Whomes and Michael Steel were convicted after evidence, which was then lost, was given by their self-professed getaway driver Darren Nicholls.
After being scrutinised for 30 hours, detectives realised the tape recording Nicholls’ questioning had stopped recording.
This lead Whomes and Steel’s lawyers to claim the get-away story was fabricated and both the convicted murders continued to maintain they were not responsible for the Essex Boys murders.
Another gangster, London-based Billy Jasper, later came forward admitting he had been paid £5,000 to take the killer to the scene of the murder – but was never charged.
The revelation that the ‘Range Rover murders’ and the death of Leah Betts may be connected appeared in a secret 2002 Scotland Yard draft intelligence report called ‘Operation Tiberius’.
During a Scotland Yard bugging operation a crime boss was caught on tape offering to murder the drug dealers who sold the ecstacy pill that led to the death of Leah Betts.
The three men’s executions have been linked to the death of Leah Betts, 18, who died after she was sold an ecstasy pill
Three weeks after the recording was made the three men who had controlled the supply of ecstasy in the Basildon nightclub where the tablet was bought, were murdered.
The crime lord’s proposition to a retired detective, who was suspected of corruption, was revealed during a Scotland Yard bugging operation, the Sunday Mirror reported.
In a meeting on November 16, 1995, the day Leah died, he told the officer he could ‘take out’ the drug suppliers.
Leah collapsed on November 1, 1995 during her 18th birthday party after taking an ecstasy tablet. She died 15 days later in hospital.
Her death was thought to have been caused by a contaminated batch of drugs but an autopsy found she had consumed 12 pints of water, which caused swelling on the brain.