'Essex Boys': Triple killer Jack Whomes to be released from jail

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionJack Whomes was jailed for life in 1998 for the Essex Boys murders

A triple killer convicted of the notorious "Essex Boys" farmland murders is to be released from jail.

Jack Whomes, 59, was given a life sentence in 1998 for the execution of three men whose Range Rover had been ambushed in Rettendon in December 1995.

He maintains his innocence and in 2018 saw his minimum term cut from 25 to just over 22 years for "exemplary" behaviour behind bars.

A Parole Board spokesman confirmed a panel had directed Whomes' release.

In one of Britain's most notorious gangland killings, drug smuggler Whomes was convicted of shooting three men in a row over drugs.

Patrick Tate, Anthony Tucker and Craig Rolfe were gunned down with a pump-action shotgun after their vehicle was ambushed.

image captionCraig Rolfe, Tony Tucker and Pat Tate were all shot in the head

Whomes' accomplice Michael Steele lured the trio to a country lane and ordered him to carry out the triple shooting, the original trial was told.

The case gained national attention and became known as the "Essex Boys murders" after it inspired a film of that name starring Sean Bean.

Steele, of Great Bentley, Essex, and Whomes, of Brockford, Suffolk, were both jailed for life at the Old Bailey in January 1998.

"Essex Boys" timeline

  • 7 Dec 1995: Anthony 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 into a so-called "supergrass" and gives evidence against Mick Steele and Jack Whomes
  • Jan 1998: Steele and Whomes jailed for life at the Old Bailey
  • October 2001: Case referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission for the first time.
  • 22 February 2006: Court of Appeal rejects appeal against convictions. Further appeals are rejected in 2013 and 2016.
  • 24 May 2018: Whomes has life sentence reduced
  • January 2021: Parole Board approved Whomes for release from prison

The Parole Board said in its written decision, first reported by Essex News and Investigations, that since being in an open prison "there had been no concerns reported" about Whomes' behaviour "which the panel was told had been exemplary".

"Whomes had been tested many times in the community via periods of temporary release and witnesses recommended that he should now be released on life licence," said the board.

It added that the "risk management plan was robust enough to manage Mr Whomes in the community".

media captionHow the BBC reported the killings at the time

Whomes - who has launched a series of legal bids to clear his name - has been approved for released following his second Parole Board review.

Following his first, in 2019, he was moved to an open prison.

After hearing the news of the release, John Whomes, 58, told the BBC his brother had been a "model prisoner throughout all those years".

He said he "knew" the parole hearing would be successful "because to put Jack in an open prison - that shows the degree of trust".

He added: "I'm delighted that Jack can now go home to his mum."

image captionPam Whomes had been fighting for her son to be released

After it emerged the Criminal Case Review Commission had looked at fresh evidence in 2018, which the pair claimed supported their innocence, an ex-police officer who worked on the case told Steele and Whomes to "accept their fate".

But John Whomes said: "We're still protesting his innocence and there's an appeal pending - at the end of the day we'll win that. The truth will come out."

A Parole Board spokesman said the panel had "carefully examined a whole range of evidence" including details of the murders, behaviour change and the impact of the crime on victims.

He added: "Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority."

Find BBC News: East of England on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you have a story suggestion email eastofenglandnews@bbc.co.uk

More on this story