A BID by one of the men convicted of the so-called Essex Boys murders to downgrade his high security Category A prisoner status has been dismissed… despite him now being aged 78.

Michael Steele, originally from Great Bentley, who was nicknamed the Angel of Death, was jailed for life in 1998 for the murders of three drug dealers found shot dead in a Range Rover in Rettendon, near Chelmsford, in 1995.

A High Court judicial review took place of a Prison and Probation Service decision which said Steele must stay in a Category A prison.

Its decision was made on the basis “convincing evidence of a significant reduction in his risk of similar reoffending” had not been shown.

Braintree and Witham Times:

Jailed - Michael Steele is still in jail while Jack Whomes has been freed

Mr Justice Fordham dismissed the case following a hearing.

In his judgement, he said the probation service’s Category A team arrived at its decision after consideration of detailed representations, including from Steele and a trained psychologist, and it was satisfied the killer must stay in a top security prison.

As part of the judgement, it was revealed Steele has admitted being involved in the importation of drugs said the be the reason of the falling out which led to the murders.

The report stated: “The claimant, while accepting his involvement in drug importation, has always protested his innocence of the triple murder.

Braintree and Witham Times:

Murder victims - Patrick Tate, Anthony Tucker and Craig Rolfe

“He has been in custody in conjunction with those matters since 1996, when he was aged 53.

“His 23 year minimum term expired in May 2019. He has been in Category A throughout.”

Steele was previously beaten unconscious while in prison at Whitemoor prison, near Peterborough, in 2010.

He sought £100,000 in damages after claiming inadequate staffing in his part of the jail had left him open to attack. The claim was thrown out in 2018.

Braintree and Witham Times:

Scene - police removing the Range Rover car in which three men were found murdered. Picture: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire.

Steele was convicted alongside Jack Whomes for shooting dead Tony Tucker, 38, Pat Tate, 37, and Craig Rolfe, 26.

Last year, Whomes, who protested his innocence, was declared suitable for release by a Parole Board panel and was freed from jail.

The infamous killings took place after trouble arose between two drug dealing groups.

The case inspired the 2000 film Essex Boys, starring Sean Bean.