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No second review for Rettendon killer
7:00am Sunday 17th February 2013 in News
A GANGLAND killer, serving life behind bars for the notorious Essex Boys murders, has failed to convince top judges his conviction should be reviewed a second time.
Michael Steele, 68, was jailed at the Old Bailey in January 1998 alongside 49-year-old Jack Whomes, after the pair were found guilty of executing three men on an isolated farmland track in Essex.
Patrick Tate, Anthony Tucker and Craig Rolfe were gunned down in a Range Rover with a pump-action shotgun in Rettendon, in December 1995.
The prosecution case at trial was that Steele, of Great Bentley, lured the three to the country lane and ordered accomplice Whomes to carry out the triple shooting, in the aftermath of a poor-quality cannabis importation.
Steele has always protested his innocence, but his conviction was upheld by the Appeal Court in February 2006 after a referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigates potential miscarriages of justice.
Since then, Steele has bombarded the commission with further letters and documentation, and London’s High Court heard the correspondence from him now runs to more than 600 pages.
However, the commission told him in February last year that, despite his further efforts, it would not be referring his case to the Appeal Court for a second time.
Challenging that decision at the High Court yesterday, Steele argued the commission was “usurping the function of the jury” and claimed it had not properly explored claims mobile phone evidence had been doctored.
But his bid for a judicial review of the decision was dismissed by two of the country’s most senior judges, who said the commission was “fully entitled” not to refer the case to the Appeal Court.
Mr Justice Fulford, sitting with Mr Justice Goldring, said: “This court will only intervene with the commission’s exercise if it was significantly or materially defective, so as to make the decision unlawful.
"That has not been demonstrated on this renewed application.”