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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 March, 2005, 00:36 GMT
Light at the end of the tunnel
By Chris Summers
BBC News

On Tuesday Jack Whomes, who was jailed for life for the murder of three Essex drug dealers in 1995, is hoping to be granted bail.

Whomes and his co-accused, Mick Steele, had their case referred back to the Court of Appeal in December.

Few people are as conscious of time as those behind bars.

Timetable of events
Rettendon Range Rover
17 Nov 1995: Teenager Leah Betts dies after taking ecstasy supplied by Tony Tucker's gang
7 Dec 1995: Tucker, Pat Tate and Craig Rolfe found shot dead in a Range Rover in Rettendon, Essex
May 1996: Darren Nicholls arrested in possession of drugs. He turns supergrass and gives evidence against Mick Steele and Jack Whomes
Jan 1998: Steele and Whomes jailed for life at the Old Bailey
Oct 2001: Case referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission
21 Dec 2004: Case referred to the Court of Appeal
"Tuesday will be my 3,235th day in prison," Whomes told his mother on the eve of his bail hearing.

Pam Whomes and her family are desperately hoping he will be freed on bail from HMP Whitemoor, in Cambridgeshire, and will not have to spend a 3,236th day in jail.

Whomes was arrested nine years ago for the murder of three drug dealers in a Range Rover parked up a snow-covered country lane in Rettendon, Essex in December 1995.

He went on trial in 1997 and was jailed for life in January 1998, along with his co-defendant Mick Steele.

In December 2004 their case was referred back to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), partly as a result of new evidence which appears to undermine the main prosecution witness, supergrass Darren Nicholls.

Mrs Whomes vividly remembers the day her son was convicted.

She had been barred from within 100 yards of the Old Bailey, as a result of an incident during the trial in which she was accused of intimidating jurors on the Tube after leaving court.

Jack Whomes with his daughter
Jack Whomes, pictured with his daughter Lucy, who is now 18

She was locked up for 22 hours and she still believes the incident, coming the day before her son was due in the witness box, was manufactured to unsettle him.

"It was ridiculous. I couldn't intimidate them because I didn't even know what they looked like. I was in the public gallery during the trial but the first two rows were roped off so I couldn't even see the jurors," she said.

Mrs Whomes told the BBC News website: "So when it came to the verdict I was at home with the family all around me.

'Devastating'

"When the verdict came through it was devastating. The kids cried for two days."

Whomes' children Jack - known as JJ - and Lucy are now 19 and 18 respectively.

He has missed a large chunk of their childhoods and is desperate to be back with them and his wife Gail.

(left to right) Tate, Tucker and Rolfe
Pat Tate, Tony Tucker and Craig Rolfe were shot in cold blood

Four years ago I went to visit Whomes in Whitemoor, a bleak and miserable edifice in the heart of the flat and featureless fenlands of East Anglia.

I expected to find a depressed and embittered man, eaten away from inside by a deep resentment at what he considers a miscarriage of justice.

But instead I found a jovial and warm individual who was determined to right the wrong he believes has been done.

Unable to read or write on entering jail, Whomes had taught himself both by studying the transcripts of his trial.

'Fitted up'

He had pored over these documents for months, determined to prove that he had been "fitted up" by Nicholls, a man he barely knew.

The CCRC spent nearly four years examining the case.

Much of this time was spent looking into the character of Nicholls, a registered police informer who gave evidence against Steele and Whomes after he himself was caught red-handed driving a car loaded with 10kg (22lb) of cannabis.

In return for his evidence he was given a very light sentence and ended up serving no prison time, apart from that which he had spent on remand.

Front page of The Sun on the day Rettendon Two were convicted
The story made front page news
He also made a considerable amount of money from co-writing a book with journalist Tony Thompson, and was also paid by TV company LWT for his role in a TV documentary which never actually saw the light of day.

The footage included filming inside Nicholls' police cell and was going on during the trial of Steele and Whomes.

Essex Police says it knew nothing of these payments and insists they did not influence Nicholls' evidence or make any difference to the convictions.

Mrs Whomes said: "Jack said to me yesterday that it will not be the end of the world if he doesn't get bail.

"He said many battles were fought and lost before the war is won, and he said at the end of the day he knows he's going to be free and his name will be cleared."




SEE ALSO:
Hopes grow for 'Rettendon Two'
25 Jan 03 |  UK News


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