Double-cross theory on murder of drug dealers

Gangland killing: Police dismiss links to death of Leah Betts as victims revealed as rising figures in narcotics underworld
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The Independent Online

Three men shot dead in a gangland killing in Essex may have been the victims of a double cross or have been murdered because they owed money, police said yesterday.

Detectives dismissed reports that the killings were being linked to the death of Leah Betts, the teenager who died last month after taking ecstasy, as "pure speculation".

They are concentrating their inquiries on known associates of the three men who are all large-scale drug-dealers in Essex.

Craig Rolfe, 26, from Grays; Patrick Tate, 37, from Basildon; and Anthony Tucker, 38, from Fobbing, were shot dead in a Range Rover in the village of Rettendon, near Chelmsford. Their bodies were found on a lonely track by two men out feeding pheasants on Thursday morning. It was soon clear it was a gangland execution.

Detective Superintendent Ivan Dibley, who is leading the inquiry, said yesterday: "They had been killed, I suppose, because of a problem with their drug-dealing. There is nothing to suggest that they distributed drugs to Leah Betts."

He agreed they were "wholesale rather than retail" drugs dealers. "They were dealing at a higher level than the street traders," he said. "There could be a power struggle going on or a double-cross taking place and somebody has sought retribution. It might be that somebody is owed money.

"Because it is quick money and easy money, there is this power struggle among the larger dealers and inevitably there are going to be incidents such as this occurring."

He said that the three men had been moving up in the drug-dealing world and sold a variety of substances. He did not know whether this included ecstasy. "It may be that the shooting has occurred because higher drug dealers were trying to find a position of power."

Donna Jaggers, Rolfe's girlfriend, wept yesterday as she appealed for help catch those responsible for the killings.

Det Supt Dibley said that six or seven shots had been fired at the men from one or more shotguns. Rolfe, the driver, and Tucker, the front seat passenger, had been shot in the head, and Tate, who was in the back, was blasted in the head and body.

He said: "The shooting was done at very close range. You did not need to be an expert to have achieved what was achieved. I still do not know whether the persons who committed these murders travelled to the scene in that Range Rover or whether they were at the scene before they arrived. It is likely that I am looking for more than one person."

t Police investigating the death of Leah Betts yesterday arrested a teenager in connection with supplying the drug.

A 17-year-old youth from Basildon, Essex, was charged with supplying a Class A drug and bailed to appear at Chelmsford magistrates' on 10 January. Leah died after taking the drug at her 18th birthday party at her home in Latchingdon, Essex, on 10 November.

Leah is believed to have bought the ecstasy that killed her from Raquel's nightclub, in Basildon. She fell into a coma after taking the pill and was put on a life support machine. She died four days later. Testsshowed that the drug had not been contaminated.