Authors: Steve 'Nipper' Ellis; Bernard O'Mahoney
Epub ISBN: 9781845968779
Copyright © Steven Ellis and Bernard O’Mahoney, 2009
All rights reserved
The moral rights of the authors have been asserted
First published in Great Britain in 2009 by
MAINSTREAM PUBLISHING COMPANY
7 Albany Street
Edinburgh EH1 3UG
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
The author has made every effort to trace copyright holders. Where this has not been possible, the publisher is willing to acknowledge any rightful copyright owner on substantive proof of ownership
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Everybody’s heard of the Essex Boys firm. They controlled much of the
drugs trade in the south-east of England during the 1990s but their lucrative operation was eventually closed down when Patrick Tate, Tony Tucker and Craig Rolfe, the gang’s key members, were rendered redundant after being shot through the head. One minute they were sitting in their Range Rover conspiring to flood the county with class-A drugs, the next they were lying in a morgue with their plans and heads in tatters. The police described the crime as ‘a senseless slaughter’. I chose to call it fucking justice. News of the three men’s demise was the best Christmas present that I and many others have ever had. Tate, Tucker and Rolfe were simply bullies who had got their comeuppance.
There are, of course, those that disagree with me. They try to portray the deceased as decent guys but they undoubtedly have no idea what they were really like. According to one particular hanger-on, they were misunderstood men who treated their friends like brothers; ‘They lived like kings’ apparently, and ‘partied like animals’. The trio were undoubtedly misunderstood. In fact, their heads were so messed up with drugs they didn’t have a clue what they were saying or doing, never mind other people being able to fathom out their madness. I have to concede that their friends were treated well, but only by the NHS when they had made their way to hospital after being beaten or stabbed by those bastards. God only knows what planet those so-called kings were supposed to be from because here, on terra firma, I was not aware of any kingdom that they ruled. And as for partied like animals? yes, OK, I will give them that one, but only because they were animals. How else can dumb animals behave other than like dumb animals?
That may sound harsh, but don’t be fooled by all that mythical bollocks about villains not hurting women and kids and looking after their own. The three murdered men didn’t care who they hurt and they only looked after themselves. They were more than happy to beat, slash, stab or murder people who dared to interfere in their drug-dealing empire. Even that’s not entirely true because they were, in fact, happy to beat, slash, stab or murder people simply because they didn’t like the look of them.
That’s why I found myself sitting in my car near Pat Tate’s bungalow with a loaded gun in my hand one night. Over the previous two weeks, the Essex Boys firm had beaten me, threatened my family, trashed my home and stolen all my possessions. After all that, they were still telling people that they were going to catch me and subject me to a long and painful death. Why? I don’t even think they knew the answer to that question. I was supposed to be their mate, one of the boys, in the firm. What a fucking joke. I am grateful that I was not their enemy.
I can clearly remember the night it all came to a head. In fact, it’s unlikely that I will ever be able to forget it. I told myself that I’d had enough of their violence and threats; I was not prepared to take their shit any more. It was time for them to experience fear; I had decided that those three morons must die in a hail of bullets . . .
17 November 1994. I have spent the evening driving around looking for Tate, Tucker and Rolfe in their usual haunts but they are nowhere to be seen. I end up driving past Rolfe’s home in Chafford Hundred but his vehicle is not in the drive. Tucker’s car is also missing from outside his home. I know that if their cars are not there, then they will be absent too, so I drive over to Basildon to look for Tate. The sight of his black Porsche parked outside his bungalow in Gordon Road sends my heart racing and my adrenalin flowing. They are celebrating Tony Tucker’s birthday tonight by throwing a party at a snooker hall in Dagenham. I can imagine Tate in the bungalow, no doubt admiring his steroid-bloated frame in some mirror, preparing to join in with the celebrations. Vain fuck! I have not put any planning into what I intend to do next and so I tell myself that instead of aiming for any particular part of his enormous body, I will just empty the gun I have in my hand into him as he steps out of the front door. My heart is pounding; so much so that it feels as if it’s going to burst through my shirt.
In an effort to remain composed, I pray to a god that I don’t even believe in. As my breathing moderates itself I notice a light being switched on in a bedroom and I can see the silhouette of a slightly built woman moving across the room. ‘Shit, shit, shit,’ I hiss through clenched teeth, as I punch the centre of the steering wheel. Tate’s long-suffering girlfriend, Sarah, is in the bungalow and no doubt she has their son Jordan with her. I know that I have to abandon my last-minute plan to blow Tate away as he walks out of his home. There is now a possibility that Sarah and their child may come through the door with him and I would not dream of putting either of them at risk. I start the engine of my car and roar off down the street. Common sense tells me to keep on driving but I know that if I allow Tate to live then I am going to die, it really is that simple. I have no choice. I have to go through with this.
I have a pump-action shotgun hidden not too far away from Tate’s home and I am beginning to think that I may need it. If one gun fails me, then Tate will undoubtedly pounce on me and I will suffer an unimaginable death. I make my way to the outskirts of Basildon, where I retrieve the weapon that I have hidden in a friend’s garden shed. The six-shot pump has been cut down and fits nicely into my jacket. I feel more confident now. I believe that I can end Tate’s miserable life and, in doing so, end my own personal misery. I get into my car and head back into Basildon. Pulling over by a railway bridge, I check that my weapons are loaded. I secrete the guns in my jacket and exit my vehicle. I am worried Sarah may see my face; she knows me and may be willing to assist the police if I kill Tate. I haven’t had time to get a balaclava and so I tear one of the sleeves from my jumper and, using a knife, cut two eye holes in it. Tate would hate me if he knew what was coming. He likes to think of himself as flash, a bit of a wide boy. Getting shot is bad enough, but he would find getting shot by a badly dressed assassin extremely humiliating. I laugh to myself. Even my balaclava is a fake. Fuck him! I have given up worrying about what Pat Tate thinks. Tonight he is going to die.
I scale a fence and make my way down a steep railway embankment and onto the tracks. It’s pitch black and I stumble more than once as I make my way to the rear of Tate’s home. After climbing the railway embankment I crash through a thorn bush and vault a panel fence. I have landed in Tate’s garden. Fearing I may have made too much noise, I run for cover towards his back door. Crouching down, I check the handgun once more and try to remain focused and calm. The back of the bungalow is lit up; the kitchen window is to my right, a bedroom window to my left. In the middle of these is a frosted glass window that I know is the bathroom. I am beginning to have reservations about carrying out my grisly task, but I know I cannot go back now. ‘Do it, Nipper, just fucking do it,’ I keep telling myself. I inhale deeply three times, pull on my makeshift balaclava and get to my feet. The bathroom light is on and Tate is moving about behind the glass. I cannot physically see him; I just know that the shadow of the hulk-like frame can only be Tate’s because no other human being I have ever known is that big. I pick up a brick and hurl it at the bathroom window, which explodes upon impact. I am standing less than three feet from the gaping hole in the window when Tate peers out. The expression on his face confirms the fear I believe he is now experiencing. Our eyes meet. I aim the gun at his face and squeeze the trigger. Tate calls out, ‘No, no,’ and I say to myself, ‘Yes, oh yes.’
The trigger of my gun ‘clicks’ and the fucking thing fails to fire. Realising he has been given a stay of execution, Tate turns to run and I lean through the broken window. ‘Click’. The gun fails me a second time and so I pull the trigger again. A deafening explosion fills my ears; the bullet finds its target and Tate begins to scream, ‘Get the police, get the police. I’ve been shot.’ His fear fills me with a perverse sense of power and I crave to end his worthless life. I had been in Tate’s bungalow on many occasions in the past and so I am aware of the layout. As Tate flees from the bathroom he turns right and I know that he has entered the kitchen. I run around to the side window of that room and attempt to shoot him once more but the gun fails to fire for a third time. Tate is looking directly at me and continues screaming, begging Sarah to call the police. As I point the gun at him again, he runs out of the kitchen and heads towards the front of the property. I assume that he is going to exit via the front door and so I stand facing it, legs apart in a firing position, waiting to blast him with the pump-action shotgun that I have taken from my coat. I can hear both Sarah and Tate screaming now. He is shouting down a telephone, ‘Police, Police, get here fucking quick. I’ve been shot and the gunman is still outside.’
I could burst into the bungalow and finish Tate off but I assume that Sarah is comforting him and therefore I would be putting her in danger. My only option is to save myself and leave the scene before the police arrive. I run through the back garden, clamber over the fence and hurl myself backwards into a thorn bush. Half running, half falling, I make my way down the railway embankment and then jog away along the tracks and into the darkness. As I climb the railway embankment to get back onto the road I can hear the wail of sirens as the emergency services approach Tate’s home. Gasping for breath but determined not to be apprehended I sprint to my car, jump in and speed away. I have no idea where Tate has been shot; I am gutted that he hasn’t taken one in the head. I just hope the bastard will not survive, wherever I have hit him.
How did I end up in this situation and what in God’s name had caused it? Tucker and Rolfe would now try to kill me to avenge their mate. I had only one option left open to me; I would have to shoot them, too.
My life was a fucking mess and it was a mess I could not begin to unravel. I had taken on the most powerful firm in Essex alone and I was going to have to live with that fact, or die trying to defend myself. If only I could have turned back the hands of time, I would never have had anything to do with these people but, as they say, shit in one hand and wish in the other; see which one gets filled first. I had to stop wishing. I was just going to have to deal with the nightmare that I was living. Fortunately, my life had equipped me with enough experience to deal with almost any situation.
I was born on a day that is synonymous with peace and love. 28 August
1965. It was the day that human rights activist Dr Martin Luther King had taken a crowd of nearly 25,000 people to the steps of the state capital of Montgomery, Alabama, to highlight injustices against black people. Dr King’s dream of racial harmony has, in the main, thankfully become a reality and the naked hatred that he so strongly opposed is all but gone. At the same time as Dr King and his supporters marched through the streets of Alabama, I was being born on the other side of the world into an environment that was also awash with love. My father’s love knew no bounds. In fact it was made available to any willing female that crossed his path, regardless of their appearance, size, creed or colour. As for peace, hand on heart, I can honestly say that there has unfortunately been very little of it in my life. Wars yes, most definitely wars aplenty.
I was born in Rochford village, a well-to-do suburb of Southend-on-Sea in Essex. The actress Amanda Topping was also born there on the very same day. Topping went on to star in TV programmes such as
The Outer Limits, The X-Files
I, too, went on to make an appearance on TV, but I have to be humble and admit that it was only a brief one-off on the BBC’s
However, unlike Topping, I have performed on several occasions in front of live audiences. Sadly, those watching me were not theatre buffs, they were jurors at my numerous trials. Rather wisely, Topping’s family left Rochford for Canada when she was just three years old. I have often thought that if only there could have been a mix-up at the hospital, then I could have been on that plane and spared all the grief that I have had to endure.
A small row of shops and well-kept homes with tidy gardens provide for the village’s 7,600 inhabitants. Most of them commute to work in the nearby towns of Southend, Basildon and Chelmsford. Until the early 1980s, the largest employer in Rochford was the Lesney factory, which manufactured the famous Matchbox miniature die-cast model cars, but even that’s gone now. It’s fair to say that not a lot goes on in Rochford.
My father’s name was Syd and my mother’s name was Lynne. Syd was an Essex boy through and through; born in Westcliffe-on-Sea, he has spent the majority of his life breaking the law and women’s hearts. Approved school, Borstal training, prison, blondes, brunettes and redheads; you name it, my dad will have sampled it. I can recall him being imprisoned for five years when I was a very young boy. My mother was so distraught following his incarceration that I honestly thought I would never see him again. Armed with a cosh, he had been approaching the cashier’s kiosk at a petrol garage when the police, who had been lying in wait for him, swooped after a tip-off. Like most criminals, my father had evaded capture far more often than he was caught and would spend his ill-gotten gains on the finest threads, the finest wine and, of course, the finest women. In fact, women were his weakness; his every waking moment was spent pursuing them. My mother must have had the patience of a saint to put up with his bad behaviour.
They had met after my mother had the misfortune to encounter my father one evening after he had been seriously assaulted. At the time, she lived just up the road from my father and happened to come across him staggering down the street covered in blood. Four men had attacked and beaten him after they found out that he had been sleeping with a friend’s wife. His jaw and nose had been broken and his teeth had cut through his tongue, so my mother helped him back to her home to administer first aid. My father repaid her in kind and nine months later I was born. They later had two more children together, my sisters Natalie and Lyndsey. When I was just four, my mother announced that she could no longer stand my father’s philandering and they separated. I don’t suppose theirs was ever a love match made in heaven. My sisters and I stayed with my mother while my father left England to tour the world.
Three years later, my father returned from his travels to announce that he was going to remarry; not my mother, thankfully, but some other not-so-lucky lady named Marie that he had met in France. This relationship produced my half-sister Sophie, who left these shores with her mother approximately eight years later. I have not seen or heard of them since. Unsurprisingly, my father’s insatiable love life later provided me with two other half-sisters, Dawn and Sophie-Sydney.
While my father was busy populating the planet, I was blissfully ignorant of his chaotic lifestyle and attempting to enjoy my childhood. Like all young boys, I idolised my mother and whatever words of wisdom she bestowed upon me I accepted as the gospel truth. For reasons known only to my mother, she decided to become a strict vegetarian and so I blindly followed suit, believing that it was in my best interests. The only problem was I hated vegetables and so I ended up starving myself. As my weight plummeted, my mother grew so concerned for my health that she used to make shepherd’s pie with meat in it and tell me that it had in fact been made with soya beans. At the age of 11, I was so thin that I became quite ill. The lack of nutrients in my body caused me to be anaemic and I am told that this triggered an awful disease, which nearly claimed my life. I was so frail that one day I found myself unable to walk from one end of our garden path to the other without stopping for breath. Fearing I was about to suffer some sort of attack, my mother rushed me to the accident and emergency department at Southend Hospital.
I can remember being taken into a side room where, for reasons never explained to me, a nurse inserted her lubricated and gloved finger into my anus. I could not quite believe what happened next. (No, my father didn’t end up marrying the nurse!) I was suddenly surrounded by concerned-looking orderlies who strapped me to the bed and whisked me away at speed to a children’s ward. I was then informed that a specialist was on his way to examine me. I was troubled by the haste of those around me; it was as if time was not on my side. I don’t recall what the specialist told me but I do remember that the expression on his face didn’t fill me with confidence. I knew that something was very wrong and for some reason I became desperate to see my father, so I asked my mother if she would contact him. Begrudgingly, she agreed to do so. I was kept in overnight, and the following morning I was transferred by ambulance to St Bartholomew’s Children’s Hospital in London. It was there that my mother explained to me that I had leukaemia.
This disease is, in layman’s terms, cancer of the blood or bone marrow. I was told that a rapid increase of immature blood cells in my bone marrow had made it unable to produce healthy blood cells. These malignant cells had then spilled over into my bloodstream and spread to other organs in my body. I didn’t have a clue what it all meant, I just knew that it was serious and so I resigned myself to the fact that I would be staying for a long time at the hospital. This may sound bizarre but I actually began to enjoy my stay at St Bartholomew’s. My father became part of my life once more and was visiting me regularly. Both he and my other numerous visitors always brought me sweets and toys, and nobody dared tell me off, regardless of what I said or did. I was being spoilt and enjoying every minute of it.
Kempton Ward, where I was housed, was full of children like me who were suffering from various types of life-threatening diseases. I can recall that one day my father brought me a Scalextric car-racing game. Two of the children on my ward, Raymond and Barnaby, were playing with me and because I was losing I began acting like a spoilt brat, shouting and being generally disruptive. The nurses, who had previously witnessed my bad behaviour on more than one occasion, decided to put me in a side room, away from the other children, as punishment. The following morning I was made to apologise profusely to them before being moved back on to the ward.
I can remember looking to my right, towards Barnaby’s bed space, and seeing the staff remove his tiny, thin body. Two nurses laid his corpse out on a trolley and covered it with a bed sheet before wheeling him out of the ward. To this day, I don’t know if Barnaby died in his sleep or if he suffered some sort of organ failure. Cancer claimed my other friend, Raymond, three weeks later. I don’t think I really understood death at such a tender age but it was undoubtedly all around me.
The chemotherapy that I underwent caused all my hair to fall out. It was a horrible experience that made me feel extremely weak and unwell.
Every now and again minor celebrities and footballers would visit the ward and they would always say how brave we all were. To be perfectly honest, not one of us on the ward could work out what they were on about. We all used to ask, ‘What is brave about lying in bed, receiving treatment for a disease that we had no choice in having?’ ‘Unlucky’, in my opinion, would have been a more appropriate word. After three months of intensive treatment, I was told by a doctor with a beaming smile that I was well enough to go home. I thought that I would be returning to school and some form of normality but it turned out to be a living hell. All the other children at school mocked me by saying that I resembled the
comic book character ‘Plug’. Some felt the need to either slap my head or trip me over. With my bald head and tombstone teeth, I accept that I must have looked a sorry sight. In a well-meaning effort to alleviate the campaign of bullying against me, my mother purchased a nylon wig for me, which prompted my tormentors to throw food at it or use it as a frisbee. Disillusioned but undefeated, my mother arranged an appointment for me to get some cosmetic relief at the dentist, but this resulted in me being fitted with a steel brace that had more than enough wire in it to fence off fucking Hyde Park. I looked and felt ridiculous; I was every arsehole and bully’s dream.
At Christmas, a well-meaning teacher decided to put me centre stage in the school play to deliver a solitary line. The idea was that it would boost my confidence. On making a rather grand entrance down a flight of multi-coloured steps, I was supposed to say, ‘I have travelled to the four corners of the world,’ but my buck teeth and nerves resulted in me mumbling, ‘I have travelled to the four corners of the weald.’ The audience erupted with laughter and I fled the stage in tears. Later that night, I placed a chair against my bedroom door to prevent family members from entering and after ripping out my brace I began scraping and hacking at my front teeth with a heavy-duty file. Grinning in a blood-spattered mirror, I was genuinely pleased with the result until the following morning. The nerve endings in my teeth had been cut and were exposed, causing me extreme pain every time that I inhaled. My gums and upper lip were swollen where the coarse file had torn at the flesh and, after rinsing the blood from my mouth, I could see that my teeth were uneven, cracked and chipped. I told my parents, teachers and a bemused dentist that I had fallen over and smashed my mouth on a kerbstone, but I don’t think any of them believed me.
The bullies loved my latest look because it provided them with an abundance of fresh material for their repertoire of hate, bile and ridicule. My mother didn’t help with the torment that I faced. Instead of being normal, doing what others did and buying a dog for a family pet, she arrived home with a fucking goat, the symbol of Satan. My fellow pupils’ mothers would meet them at the school gates wearing floral dresses with Lassie-type dogs on leads. My mother would arrive dressed up like a car crash with the goat on a rope. I was so embarrassed I used to hide in the bike sheds until the other children and their parents had dispersed. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother, but if my father had taken her to a wife-swapping party, I am in no doubt that he would have come home with a box of the host’s unwanted bric-a-brac.
A few months after returning to school, the bullying unexpectedly and abruptly ended, but it was replaced by a far more challenging problem. I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I had been in the bath one evening when I realised that I would require a wheelbarrow to transport one of my testicles around if it grew much larger. I reluctantly asked my mother to examine my genitals and after doing so she rushed me once more to the now familiar accident and emergency department at Southend Hospital. Later that night, I was back among my dying friends in St Bartholomew’s. My nylon wig was placed on my bedside table, now redundant among a ward full of bald patients, but a constant reminder of the bullying that I had suffered at school. I was dreading having to undergo any sort of chemo-or radiation therapy and after pleading with my mother to intervene she promised me that I would be spared the ordeal. The doctors said that it was an understandable but foolish decision, but my mother was adamant that she would rather let me fight the disease naturally. The hospital staff conceded that they could not force me to have what could prove to be life-saving treatment, but my father said that he could, and he would.
The following morning, he instructed a firm of solicitors to make an emergency application to ‘save my life’ at the High Court in London. My mother argued that I was very weak and had suffered enough, but when a specialist told the court that my chances of survival without the treatment were virtually non-existent I was made a ward of the court. This meant that any important decisions regarding my welfare would be made by a third party working for the courts rather than by my parents. The very next day, I was taken to a room and laid on a table. Heavy lead shields were put into position to protect the unaffected parts of my body and a powerful radiation machine began to ‘cook’ the offending testicle. This process took approximately five or ten minutes and, at the end of it, all I wanted to do was sleep. When I awoke later that night, my father was sitting next to my bed looking extremely serious and morose. ‘I have some bad news, Steven,’ he said holding my hand. ‘The doctors have informed me that you may never be able to have children.’ I was still a child myself and so couldn’t appreciate just what was so bad about this news. I can remember looking back at my father and thinking: why would I want to have bloody children anyway? My mother looked equally devastated when she came to visit me, but at least she brought me a new toy and sweets to soften the blow of the ‘devastating news’. For the next three months, I underwent more radiation treatment and was administered numerous drugs, which made me feel more ill than the disease I was stricken with. If I ate, I threw up, and on the rare occasions that I managed to keep food down, I suffered from chronic diarrhoea. My weight plummeted and once more I found that I had little or no strength. Those that came to visit me were visibly shocked by my appearance but again, unlike many of the other children on my ward, I managed to pull through.