Leah Betts link to triple killing

Drugs squad probe gangland murder

WILL BENNETT

Three men found shot dead in a Range Rover in a lonely Essex lane yesterday were victims of a gangland execution. Detectives are working on a link between the professional "hit" and a drugs ring dealing in ecstasy thought to be connected with the death of the teenager Leah Betts.

The three men were named as Tony Tucker, Craig Rolfe and Patrick Tate. Tucker was a close personal friend and sometime minder to the champion boxer Nigel Benn and had led the fighter into the ring for championship bouts.

All three were killed in a vicious drug-gang war that broke out after a police clampdown operation on ecstasy dealers in the Basildon area. The shooting is said by Essex CID sources to have been organised after dealers in the ecstasy trade were "grassed" by informants picked up by detectives.

The three men are thought to have been muscling in on the territory of established dealers who operated at the disco where Leah Betts bought the ecstasy tablet which led to her death.

Leah Betts died last month after taking an ecstasy tablet during her 18th birthday party at a nightclub in Basildon. Detectives investigating her death are working closely with other Essex officers on the triple murder inquiry. Last night detectives from the Betts investigation were being briefed by colleagues from the triple-murder squad.

The teenager was clinically dead within hours of taking the ecstasy tablet, stamped with a distinctive apple motif, during a night out with friends at Racquel's nightclub in her home town. She was taken to hospital and put on a ventilator, but never responded to treatment. After four days, her life support system was switched off.

At first it was thought the fatal tablet was contaminated but an inquest in Chelmsford heard that it was pure. A full inquest will be held early next year.

Following Leah's death, police made a series of arrests, pulling in suspected ecstasy dealers from Basildon and other parts of Essex. The three men found dead yesterday were all criminals and known to have been involved in drug-dealing.

Detective Superintendent Ivan Dibley, who is leading the murder inquiry, said: "They are people who I would put well above the bottom rung of the ladder in the criminal fraternity."

Police believe that the men were either abducted or lured to the lane in the village of Rettendon, near Chelmsford, where they were blasted in the head with a shotgun. Police confirmed that cartridges had been found near the vehicle.

The bodies were found in Workhouse Lane, on the outskirts of Rettendon at 8am yesterday by Ken Jiggins and Peter Theobald, who were on their way to feed pheasants in nearby fields. Two were in the front of the metallic blue Range Rover, registration number F424 NPE, and the third man was in the back. The rear nearside window had been smashed, apparently by a shot.

Mr Jiggins, 47, a bricklayer got out of the Land Rover which Mr Theobald, 44, who farms the land, was driving and approached the Range Rover. He glanced inside, saw the men and not realising they were dead, he tapped on the window. He said: "For all the world they looked as though they had fallen asleep in the car. It wasn't until I looked again that I realised they had been shot.

"I was shocked, it was not something I expected to find. The driver was lying with his head on one side and blood coming out of his nose." Mr Theobald said: "We have had various incidents down that lane but certainly nothing like this."

The two men called police, who sealed off the murder site, which is 250 yards from the main A130 road from Chelmsford to Southend. The lane is well known to the local criminal fraternity and a hijacked cigarette lorry was taken there six years ago. A safe, the proceeds of another crime, was found dumped there recently.

Yesterday afternoon the Range Rover was lifted on to a police low-loader with the bodies still inside it, covered with a tarpaulin. It was taken away for forensic analysis away.

Det Supt Dibley said last night that he did not know whether the three men had been killed by a single gunman or whether several killers had been involved.

He continued: "I believe that the killings took place at the scene. There are no real signs in the vehicle of either a struggle or of an attempt by one or more persons to get out of the vehicle.

"This tends to suggest that they were either surprised or that whoever did the crime was in the vehicle with them. They may have been forced to drive there at gunpoint."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick