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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 August 2006, 18:14 GMT 19:14 UK
'Will I ever prove I'm innocent?'
By Chris Summers
BBC News

Earlier this year the Court of Appeal rejected an appeal by two men convicted of murdering three Essex drug dealers in 1995. One of the men has written to the BBC News website vowing to fight on to prove his innocence.

One of two men convicted of the so-called Essex Boys murders in December 1995 has told the BBC he will continue to try and clear his name.

Writing from Whitemoor prison in Cambridgeshire, Whomes said: "I never done it. I know I never got a fair trial."

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
22 Feb 2006: Court of Appeal dismisses appeal
31 Jul 2006: Court of Appeal refuses leave to appeal to the House of Lords

In February Jack Whomes and his co-defendant Michael Steele lost their appeal against conviction for the murders of drug dealers Tony Tucker, Pat Tate and Craig Rolfe.

Both men have always protested their innocence.

Last month they were told by the same Court of Appeal judges that they could not have permission to take the case to the House of Lords.

But the campaign to free the pair is not over.

Their solicitors are considering contacting the Criminal Cases Review Commission again and are also preparing to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

During a five-day hearing the Court of Appeal heard how supergrass Darren Nicholls - whose testimony was crucial to the conviction - had been negotiating deals with publishers and TV companies while he was in police custody.

Nicholls was promised tens of thousands of pounds for "his story" - that he was supposedly Steele and Whomes's getaway driver. The deals would clearly only come to fruition if the pair were convicted.

But the Court of Appeal judges felt this information would not have affected the verdict of the murder trial jury because the negotiations were apparently only begun after Nicholls had given his first statement to police.

Jack Whomes with his daughter
The British justice system has let my family down twice
Jack Whomes

Whomes and Steele's campaigners say the Court of Appeal judges have acted as a "second jury" by second guessing whether a jury would have convicted them had they known all the facts which are now available.

In his letter, Whomes said: "I was only asking the Court of Appeal to apply logic and justice. But that was too much to ask. Now the British justice system has let my family down twice."

He wrote: "Having fought to get justice for nine years and 10 months does naturally in some respects make even someone like me selfish just for my own freedom, because it is freedom which will take away the sheer torment of being separated from my family and friends."

'Fitted up'

Whomes said he had changed out of all recognition since the day he was arrested by police in May 1996.

He wrote: "Being fitted up with such a crime as murder, a triple gangland one at that, can and did give me tunnel vision at the beginning, and a degree of selfishness without looking at the impact of my own case on the justice system.

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

"It wasn't until I had taught myself to read and write proficient enough to read appeal judgments that it became apparent to me the true significance of my case, that there had NEVER been a case like it before."

Whomes and his campaigners claim the ramifications of overturning the convictions are just too much for the legal establishment.

The case has deep implications for the handling of supergrasses and the relationship between the police and the media.

Steele's solicitor, Chris Bowen, told the BBC News website: "I am actively assisting Mr Steele in his application to the CCRC and to the European Court of Human Rights.

"Mr Steele's determination to prove his innocence and overturn his conviction is undiminished and as great as ever."

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


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