In the early 1990s, Paul Manning joined the UK's Royal Military Police — shortly after, he was recruited into the Special Investigations Branch, a Covert Operations unit.
One of his first major targets was the infamous 'Essex Boys'
, a gang who have since been immortalized in eight films. The drug dealing trio of Tony Tucker, Patrick Tate and Craig Rolfe had a reputation for extreme violence, and robbing other drug dealers at gunpoint — they are alleged to have sold the ecstasy tablet that killed teenager Leah Betts, whose death was front page news in British newspapers in November 1995. "I was asked to infiltrate the gang not long after that. I got in with them through the gym — they were heavy steroid users and spent a lot of time pumping iron. It quickly became obvious authorities were running wires on us without legal authority. When I briefed members of the Regional Crime Squad about my activities, they knew things I hadn't told them yet. I'd only been infiltrating a couple of weeks when they got killed," Paul told Sputnik.
On December 5 1995, the three ringleaders were shotgunned to death in a Range Rover, down a quiet country lane. Two local petty criminals, Mick Steele and Jack Whomes, were convicted of the crime, based exclusively on the questionable testimony of 'supergrass' Darren Nicholls. The pair protest their innocence to this day, and have spent 22 years in prison.