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About the Author
Bernard O’Mahoney is the author of a number of true-crime books, including the bestsellingBONDED BY BLOOD
The Dream Solution
Wannabe in my Gang?
He has also written of his experiences in the army and on a tour of duty in Northern Ireland in
Soldier of the Queen
and of his gradual transition from Nazi thug to Nazi opponent in
MURDER AND INTRIGUE
IN THE ESSEX GANGLANDS
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licenced or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
Epub ISBN: 9781780570716
Copyright © Bernard O’Mahoney, 2006
All rights reserved
The moral right of the author has been asserted
First published in Great Britain in 2006 by
MAINSTREAM PUBLISHING COMPANY
7 Albany Street
Edinburgh EH1 3UG
ISBN 978 1 84596 164 0 (from January 2007)
ISBN 1 84596 164 1
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any other means without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for insertion in a magazine, newspaper or broadcast
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
I dedicate this book to my beautiful wife, Emma Elizabeth O’Mahoney, who died in my arms on 2 December 2004, just four months after we married, aged twenty-six.
I would like to thank the following people for helping me through the darkest days following my loss: Vinney, Siobhan, Glen, Ebony, Lauren, Adrian, Natalie and Karis, Debra, Michael, Carol, Finn, Lilly, Hughie, Kate, Leah, Molly, my mother Anne, Jacquelyn and Ann Lippett, Gavin and Sue, Andy Byrne, Miss South London, Toene Shadiya, Kassy McGuiness, Chop Lambert, Chemical Earl, Page 7 Fella Leo, Baron, Burdo, Good Game, Good Game Boss Eye, Bouldie, Mally, Marcus, Lee, Mark (duck) Green, Kevin Carvell, Darrel Edwards, Auntie Patricia and Uncle Paul, brother Jerry, Amy, Leanne, Tino, Ken Hassle, Liverpool Lenny, Corrine Payne, Peterborough Bobby, Stevie Dee, Brett, Martin (Whizz Kid) Moore, the Cowley family, Julie Ford, Wes and Zoe (He’s not with me, woman), Shane, Whizzer, Taffy, Little Tony, Rachie, Jim Dean senior, Jim junior, Mad Jack, Gary Jones, Emma Bailey and her inseparable other half, Erica Els, Tracie d’Cruz, Solicitor Hugh Cauthery and last but by no means least, Dr Wilson, for the time he gave up to be with me and the care he showed.
Until we meet again, Emmie xx
Today, I intend to put the events of November and December 1995
behind me. I have waited more than a decade for this day, this hour, this moment to arrive.
Teenager Leah Betts died in November 1995 after taking an Ecstasy pill that was supplied by my associates. The following month, three of those associates were murdered in cold blood. Those two terrible events have dominated my life ever since. They have dictated where I live and where I spend my time; divided my friends and torn my family apart.
Leah’s father appeared on national television and claimed I was responsible for the death of his teenage daughter. His words hit me hard: very hard, in fact, because I was not given the right to reply to his allegation. The police and others suspected me of executing my three former friends: I feared not only reprisals but that I could end up serving a life sentence for crimes I did not commit.
With the advances in forensic science and the countless overhauls of the judicial system following a spate of miscarriages of justice in the ’90s people may scoff at the thought of such a thing happening in this day and age. Unfortunately, it did happen; fortunately, it didn’t happen to me. I was not the only suspect in Essex Police’s misaligned sights for the murder of my three associates. Two other men, Mick Steele and Jack Whomes, became suspects after their one-time friend, Darren Nicholls, levelled his accusing finger in their direction. Nicholls had been arrested for importing cannabis and offered to give police the names of the killers in return for a reduced sentence for himself.
Ten years after Nicholls’s dubious evidence secured their convictions, Steele’s and Whomes’s cases were referred back to the Court of Appeal. I, along with many others, thought justice would finally be done and they would be freed. After a five-day hearing, their appeals were dismissed. For them, the fight goes on; for me, it’s probably over.
That is why I am here today, down the lane where the executions took place. It’s not the first time I have visited this ghastly place, but it will be my last. I want closure; I want to clear my mind, exorcise the faces of so many young, dead people that haunt me. The truth will be told one day, but not until the guilty and I have gone to our graves. I am standing on the spot where the three men met their deaths. I can visualise the Range Rover they arrived in making its way down the narrow, uneven, potholed track on the night of 6 December 1995. The snow was falling heavily and had bleached the surrounding fields.
In the driving seat was 26-year-old Craig Rolfe. Earlier that afternoon his partner, Diane Evans, had been busy wrapping Christmas presents when he returned home with their daughter, Georgie. The couple had spent about an hour and a half together before Rolfe announced that he wanted Diane to be ready by seven o’clock because they were going out. Rolfe said he had booked a table for six at the Global Net Café, a restaurant on South Street in Romford. They would be joined by two friends and their girlfriends. Rolfe then dropped Diane off at Lakeside shopping centre so that she could buy a new dress to wear that night. Diane was never to see him again.
Tony Tucker, 38, another of the would-be diners, sat in the front passenger seat of the Range Rover. After dropping off Diane earlier that evening, Rolfe had picked him up from his house. Tucker’s partner, Anna Whitehead, recalled that her boyfriend was wearing jeans, a white vest, a North Sails sweater and Caterpillar boots. He was also carrying his Nokia mobile phone. Like Diane, Anna didn’t think her partner would be away long because they were due to be in Romford, a 20-minute journey from their Basildon home, later that evening for their meal. Anna was never to see Tucker again.
It was surprising that Tucker and Rolfe had an appetite because earlier that afternoon they had enjoyed a meal at the TGI Friday’s restaurant in Lakeside with friends Peter Cuthbert and Pat Tate.
Tate, 37, sat immediately behind Tucker as the Range Rover made its way down the track. Tate had started the day in a foul mood. He had rowed with his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his son, Sarah Saunders. She had asked him for a new car because a Volkswagen Golf Tate had given her a few weeks earlier was proving to be unreliable. On more than one occasion, Sarah and her young son, Jordan, had been forced to walk along busy roads after the vehicle had ground to a halt. Tate, on the other hand, was driving around in a Mercedes that he had acquired after using Sarah’s details to get a bank loan. When Sarah finally lost her temper and pointed out this injustice to Tate, he went berserk. Tate, Tucker and Rolfe drove around to Sarah’s mum’s and ‘repossessed’ the Volkswagen, then Tate, in a blind rage, threw all of Sarah’s possessions into the street. Concerned for her safety, Tucker and Rolfe had physically grabbed Tate and bundled him into their car. It was the last time Sarah was ever to see Tate alive.
By the time Tate had joined Tucker and Rolfe at TGI Friday’s his mood had changed dramatically: few can recall ever seeing him so happy. Tate had given the waitress a tip and asked her for a date. They had exchanged phone numbers. Tate promised her he would be in touch. It was a promise that would unwittingly be broken.
The Range Rover lurched from side to side as it made its way slowly down the farm track. The occupants laughed and warned Rolfe to watch where he was going.
At a quarter to seven, Tate’s mobile phone rang. It was Sarah. She wanted to apologise for the row they’d had earlier. Tate couldn’t have been more polite.
‘Oh, don’t worry. I am sorry for going mad and everything else,’ he said. Before Sarah could reply, he continued, ‘Listen, I can’t talk at the moment, I’m with people, give me a call tomorrow and we’ll sort it all out.’
‘OK, goodbye,’ said Sarah. The line went dead. Tate had hung up. He would never get the chance to ‘sort it all out’.
The ‘people’ Tate had mentioned to Sarah sat alongside him in the rear of the Range Rover. A co-conspirator lurked nearby, watching and waiting; eager for the prey to fall into the deadly trap that had been set.
The car stopped where I am now standing. In its path stood a locked five-bar gate. A sign facing the car and its occupants read: ‘Countryside premium scheme. Farming operations must still take place, so please take special care to avoid injury. The use of guns or any other activity which disturbs people or wildlife are not allowed on this land. Enjoy your visit.’ Nobody was going to take any notice of it. The time now was approximately ten to seven. Diane, Anna and Tate’s date for the night, Clare, would have been glancing at their watches as they put on their make-up and their finest threads. They would have been thinking that the boys would be home soon to take them out to dinner. This was to be no ordinary meal: they were all going out to celebrate becoming millionaires.
Tucker, Tate and Rolfe had bragged about their ‘big deal’ for weeks. Their minds mangled with drugs and their common sense blinded by greed, they genuinely believed tonight was the night they were going to become rich. Fucking mugs.
As eight o’clock drew nearer, Tucker, Tate and Rolfe’s anxious dinner dates began to call their men. A message left on Tucker’s answering machine said, ‘Hello, babe, give us a ring and let me know how you’re getting on. I’m all ready now. Bye.’ The calls were in vain: dinner was going to be ruined and the boys were going to be late – very late.
When the Range Rover had pulled up in front of the locked gate, the man sitting next to Tate in the rear of the car got out, claiming he had a key to open it. The man who had been lying in wait emerged from the bushes with a pump-action shotgun in each hand. The interior light had come on because the Range Rover door was open, thus ensuring those sitting inside the car couldn’t see what was going on outside because it was pitch-black.
The man holding the shotgun handed one to his accomplice before leaning through the open rear door of the Range Rover. From less than two feet away, he fired his first shot into Rolfe’s neck, leaving a huge open wound. The shotgun barrel was so close to Rolfe’s head the explosion caused burns to his neck and the seat headrest. The second shot hit Tucker in the right side of the face near his cheek. Tate, in the back of the car, was then shot in the side of the chest, damaging his liver. Rolfe hadn’t suspected a thing: his hands remained on the steering wheel, his foot wedged firmly on the brake pedal. Tucker remained relaxed, sitting in an upright position, his legs crossed, his mobile phone in his hand.
Tate, who had witnessed his friends being slaughtered, began to squeal like a baby, pleading with the assassins to spare his life. In a vain attempt to make himself a smaller target, he tried to crawl into the corner of the car, bending his knees and covering his face. Panic-stricken, he smashed the rear passenger-door window in a hopeless effort to escape. The gunman coolly reloaded and turned the smoking barrel of his gun away from Tate, then shot Rolfe behind the right ear. The blast exited between his eyes, totally disfiguring him: one eye hung down on his cheek.