The Rettendon murders (also known as the Range Rover murders or Essex boys murders) occurred on 6 December 1995 in the village of Rettendon in Essex, England, when three drug dealers were shot dead in a Range Rover on a small farm track. The three victims, Patrick Tate (37), Tony Tucker (38), and Craig Rolfe (26), were found dead, having been shot in the head at close range. The police determined that the murders were a gangland execution, with Essex CID sources saying that the shooting was organized after dealers in the ecstasy trade were “grassed on” by informants picked up by detectives.
The Essex Police began a sting operation, titled Operation Century, to investigate the triple homicide, and eventually arrested Jack Whomes and Michael Steele over the murders. Jack Whomes (36) and Michael Steele (55) denied the charges but were convicted of the triple murder on 20th January 1998 and both received three life sentences with a minimum of 15 years. Their conviction hinged on the testimony of Darren Nicholls, Steele’s handyman and driver, who had driven Whomes and Steele from Rettendon and claimed that Whomes was wearing bloodstained white surgical gloves and overalls, and were in possession of dismantled guns.
An alternative theory to the Rettendon murders includes that the murders were linked to organized crime and that they were killed after Tucker allegedly stole the proceeds of a £495,000 armed robbery. Since 1998, Steele and Whomes’ have filed multiple appeals, all of which have been rejected, while the case was reviewed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which decided in January 2023 not to refer the case back to the Court of Appeal. On 25 January 2021, after a Parole Board hearing, it was announced that Jack Whomes would be released from prison on license after serving 23 years. His 25-year sentence was reduced by two years in 2018 due to his exemplary conduct whilst incarcerated
The ruthless execution of Tony Tucker, Pat Tate, and Craig Rolfe has spawned no fewer than 12 feature films (the best-known of them starring Sean Bean) based on or inspired by the “true” story of what happened.