Essex Boys: A Terrifying Expose Of The British Drugs Scene

Author(s): Bernard O'Mahoney
Publisher: Mainstream Publishing
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9781840182859
ASIN: 1840182857
Release Date: 3rd April 2000


I have to concede here and now I am not a great fan of the literary genre that is true crime. Invariably the prose lends itself to sensationalism and hyperbole, is poorly written and riddled with bad grammar. It therefore came as no shock to me that Bernard O'Mahoney's account of the infamous slaying of the 'Essex Boys' firm in their Range Rover on a farm track in Rattendon is no exception.

O'Mahoney was a doorman at Raquels nightclub (without the apostrophe of course) in Basildon in the 90s at a time when the house / garage movement was gaining momentum, coupled with a pervasive drug culture dominated by the easy accessibility of Ecstasy.

At the same time a group of individuals headed by ex-boxer Tony Tucker and Pat Tate were gaining notoriety in the Essex underworld as they meted out summary violence and retribution to those who stood in their way in their quest for dominance. O'Mahoney was head of security at Requels, and thus 'owned the door'. It becomes evident reading his account that him and his cohorts on the door were the real managers of the club, and they looked after entrance, drug distribution and crowd 'control' through strong-arm tactics. O'Mahoney is non-apologetic about this approach; softly softly strategies failed and the club became a soft touch, so violence was stepped up (such as chasing wrongdoers down the streets of Baslidon and bashing them into unconsciousness in laughably 'self defence') - this of course had the knock-on effect of leading to a downward spiral of acrimony and further retribution.

O'Mahoney was top dog. He was a fearsomely confrontational doorman who gained respect with his methods. He also collected a great many enemies. At the same time Tucker was consuming many of the drugs he was peddling, and became increasingly irrational and unstable leading to fractured friendships and paranoia.

Middle class Leah Betts, an 18 year old celebrating her birthday died after consuming an 'Apple' (100% pure Ecstasy tablet) bought at Raquels. A picture of her laying in a terminal coma fitted with intensive care tubes whilst in hospital became a cause célèbre in the right-wing press. This led to a witch hunt and accusations within the firm as they all tried to apportion blame elsewhere.

At the same time, Tate and Tucker were planning a massive robbery of a shipment of drugs being flown into a Essex at night and landing in a field next to the Rattendon roundabout. Tucker's meteoric rise in gangland was predicated on such heists - guaranteed to yield good returns but at a cost of upsetting rival firms. In fact the shipment didn't exist - it was a set-up to eradicate the Essex Boys, probably by a rival firm.

O'Mahoney, whilst dislikeable, does tell a good tale, although I have my suspicions he was at best an extremely peripheral member of the Essex Boys firm, and he's guilty of bigging up his own involvement. He is adamant that he was never a drug dealer per se but he facilitated its distribution in the club. It's therefore inconceivable that he wouldn't be in that Range Rover on the fateful night if he was a major player.

The title of the book would suggest the central theme is the Essex Boys firm and the Rattendon execution. Not a bit of it - the lion's share of the book revolves around O'Mahoney's exploits as a bouncer. It paints a vivid picture on the machinations of nightclub door security, but I would suspect that most purchasers of the book would feel somewhat short-changed since the Essex Boys / Rattendon incident is limited to the final two chapters like it was bolted on as an afterthought.

The Essex Boys story has become an industry in the media, stoked by continuing rumour those convicted of the murders were also fitted up. The overriding feeling is this entry in the Essex Boys stable is no more than adequate and doesn't come close to revealing all the events.