On December 6, 1995 Patrick Tate, Craig Rolfe and Tony Tucker – all career criminals and well established drug dealers known to the UK police, were lured to Workhouse Lane in Rettendon, in the Borough of Chelmsford, Essex where they were brutally murdered with shotgun blasts while seated inside their Range Rover. The three had been lured to the remote farm track on the pretext of a lucrative drugs deal. Their bodies were found the on December 7, 1995 and the case, appropriately named the Triple Rettendon Murders became one of the most notorious murders in England’s recent history.
The Triple Rettendon Murders Story
Surrounded by quiet English countryside, a small town in the southeast of Essex, a town named Rettendon was a rather eventless little village, and would remain completely unknown to most of the outside world, and even most of the British, until the tragedy that unwound on the evening of December 6th, 1995.
Three men, Pat Tate, Tony Tucker, and Craig Rolfe, would be shot to death on that night, abandoned in a Range Rover, their faces so mangled they could only be identified by their fingerprints. It was alleged that the three men drove out to the country lane expecting to follow through with a drug rendez-vous. All three were heavily involved in the dealing of ecstasy and had a fair bit of blood on each of their hands – which we’ll get to in a moment.
The ages of the men at the time of death were 37, 38, and 26 respectively. They were found by an old farmer and his friend in the early hours of December 7th, four miles from a town where another famous ecstasy-related case occurred – that of Leah Betts, who quite possibly consumed ecstasy distributed by the victims’ gang before her untimely death at the age of eighteen. For this reason, many suspected the murders were perpetrated by one wishing to avenge her.
The Essex Boys
Tate, Tucker and Rolfe were not unfortunate, complacent thugs as one might want to think in a case like this – in fact, it was quite the contrary. Patrick Tate, possibly a steroid user and weighing in at 250 pounds, was a notorious armed robber in the Essex area. One incident on his record truly illustrates just how far Patrick Tate’s rage could go if he was in the wrong state of mind.
Two days before his death, Patrick Tate’s girlfriend called into a local pizza parlour, requesting a pie that wasn’t included on the menu. The manager of the restaurant politely informed her that they could not make it for her.
Tate’s response was to grab the phone and begin swearing violently down it. The manager said to him, “Cut the attitude and we will bring you a pizza.”
This didn’t please Patrick Tate one bit – in a frenzy he rushed down to the store and threw the cash register at the 21-year-old manager who had answered the phone. After punching him in the face and slamming his head into a glass plate, Patrick Tate stormed off.
Neighbours said that expensive cars would always pull up to Tate’s house, which was in a very ordinary middle-class neighbourhood, and he always seemed very well-off, but nobody knew where he got his money from, and nobody dared to ask. He had been extremely paranoid after surviving a previous murder attempt in April of 1995.
His girlfriend testified that Patrick Tate, despite what atrocities he had been responsible for, supposedly had a good heart – it was the drugs and the steroids, which he had gotten increasingly addicted to in the past two years, that ruined him.
Tony Tucker was a true drug baron – a real tough guy who had previously played the part of bodyguard for Nigel Benn – professional boxers in Britain. Money earned trafficking drugs bought Tony Tucker many luxuries in life – a basketball court, a stable, and enough money left on the side to pay for the extensive security one needed to live the life of a drug lord without being killed right off the bat. Ruthless and dangerous, Tony Tucker was both feared and respected.
Friends of Tony Tucker described him as likeable – very different from his gang personality, almost like a “good businessman”. One ex-member of the gang whose life has been documented in films such as Rise of the Footsoldier, named Carlton Leach, claimed that to his buddies, Tony Tucker was trustworthy, even “lovable” and “like a brother”.
This seems to be something often testified of many hard criminals, even the most infamous, such as Escobar. It really makes me wonder, and forgive me for sidetracking, which one is the “real” side of a man, and which one is the ruse?
Last and probably least, the youngest of the Essex Boys – 26 year old Craig Rolfe. Not much information exists on his background – we can assume, then, that he was a bit less of a higher-up in the game. Tony Tucker had been his boss. In his film portrayal, Craig Rolfe was shown as a long-haired, somewhat naive minor character, one of those kids who gets wound up in drug crime and gang violence and never manages to worm his way out of it.
We know now who the hacked-up piles of human face meat in the pictures are, which leaves us to wonder, who killed them? Well, I’ll elaborate on that in a second, but let’s also mention that fourth figure of the pack, Carlton Leach – a friend and associate of Tony Tucker and Patrick Tate was not in the Range Rover and is still lives in Essex.
The Triple Rettendon Murders Suspects
The perpetrators of the crime were convicted largely on the testimonies of a man dubbed the “supergrass”, otherwise known as Darren Nicholls. Darren Nicholls was obviously also involved in the English underground and had been convicted on drug offenses in the past. His claim was that he had driven the supposed murderers, engineer Michael Steele and mechanic Jack Whomes, to and from the scene of the attack. He was given credit for his testimonies, and served no time for his role in the crime.
The lawyers and families of Michael Steele and Jack Whomes are convinced that Nicholls’ testimony is flawed, based on new evidence risen in more recent years. Jack Whomes is trying to apply for a re-trial, so far to no avail. Another criminal confessed to being the driver, one Billy Jasper, but since Darren Nicholls was the prime suspect in this case, he was not given much attention by the police, even though his story is credible.
Jasper’s testimony goes as follows: he was offered five thousand British pounds to drive an anonymous accomplice to the Rettendon murder scene in order to carry out a cocaine deal. He was unaware of the anonymous’ weapons (a sawed-off shotgun and 9mm pistol) and left the scene until the deal was supposedly done. When he returned, it was only then that he realized his accomplice’s true intentions, and that the three drug barons had been murdered inside the car.
The families of convicts are under the impression that Darren the supergrass Nicholls fabricated his story out of self-interest, in order to evade his sentences for crimes he had personally committed.
The judge himself was quoted as saying, “Nicholls is a convicted criminal who was engaged in drug abuse and the importation of drugs into this country. You must bear in mind it was in his own interest to become a prosecution witness… he hopes to get less time to serve.”
The Triple Rettendon Murders Evidence
From a mobile phone expert, another telling piece of evidence was discovered: at 6:44 Darren Nicholls received a call from Jack Whomes, calling from Workhouse Lane, asking him to “come and pick us up” after the murder, but Whomes maintains that he was informing Nicholls that his broken-down car had been picked up, and calling from a pub’s car park.
A forensic scientist ran tests that discovered almost ten calls made from the pub’s parking lot that could possibly have been made by Jack Whomes (they used his same transmitter) but none from Workhouse Lane that could possibly have come from him.
Another issue is that investigators found that whoever shot the Essex Boys was an “expert marksman”. Darren Nicholls claimed that Jack Whomes was the one who fired at them. Whomes’ brother, however, testified that Whomes had a long-standing fear of guns, ever since a hunting accident he had experienced as a child, and had never owned one himself, let alone possessed expert knowledge of their use.
Jasper’s anonymous accomplice, however, was a brilliant shooter, and a former soldier who was well-decorated, so he clearly had a lot of experience with weaponry and violence.
Billy Jasper and his anonymous accomplice have been searched for in recent years, perhaps to see if it might turn the tables, but neither of them have ever been found. Knowing the lives they lived, it is unfortunately quite likely the both of them are dead – in which case, if they were the Rettendon murderers, we will never know, and even more unfortunately, Jack Whomes and Michael Steele – both jailed for life – will never be acquitted. Such is a prime example of how useless the courts can be sometimes.
Rettendon Murders in Popular Culture
The events surrounding the Triple Rettendon Murders inspired a number of movies. Perhaps the most famous one is film title “Essex Boys” with Sean Bean in the main role. A 2007 film “Rise of the Footsoldier” (following the biography of Carlton Leach) and 2010 film “Bonded by Blood” are also based on the crime.
Rettendon Murders Video Documentary
Video below is a documentary on Triple Rettendon Murders by Crime Monthly. It contains interviews with investigators as well as farmers Peter Theobald and Ken Jiggins who discovered the grizzly scene as they drove towards the Range Rover with their Land Rover. The video also contains reconstruction of the events leading to the murder of the Essex Boys. “Was it a contract killing or did the men know and trust the assassin?” – the commentator asks:
One more video documentary – more recent, with many interviewes, including relatives and friends:
Rettendon Murders Photo Gallery
The photographs below depict Patrick Tate, Tony Tucker and Craig Rolfe in the very same Range Rover they died in, exactly as they were discovered. It’s an extensive library of photos and includes crime scene photographs and autopsy images.
The poorly-endowed, tattooed man with holes in his scalp is Patrick Tate. The man with the popped eye is Craig Rolfe. Tony Tucker is the rather hefty man with a shiny leather jacket and a great big bloodstain down the side of his jeans.
Many thanks to Sofia C. and Dave aka archamedes for valuable assistance putting this detailed post with all the relevant information together.