Rise of The Footsoldier: Origins - Vinnie Jones takes on role of former gang member who grew up in Codsall in new film

A former member of the notorious Essex Boys gang who grew up in South Staffordshire is set to be portrayed by footballer turned actor Vinnie Jones in a film next year.

Bernard O'Mahoney with Vinnie Jones
Bernard O'Mahoney with Vinnie Jones

Former Wimbledon and Chelsea midfielder Jones will star as Bernard O’Mahoney, who grew up in Codsall, in crime drama film Rise of The Footsoldier: Origins, which is based on the gang.

Mr O’Mahoney became an associate of drug dealers Tony Tucker, Patrick Tate and Craig Rolfe whilst working at a London nightclub.

The three men were shot dead in a Range Rover, in Rettendon, Essex on December 6, 1995, prompting a major police investigation.

The incident has led to a string of books and films, with Mr O’Mahoney retiring from security and becoming an author in the aftermath.

And now he will be portrayed by Jones, who also played for the likes of Sheffield United and Leeds, in the fifth and final movie in the Rise of The Footsoldier franchise.

Mr O’Mahoney took over security at a club called Raquel’s, in Basildon, in 1988 before the rave scene emerged.

He said: “We ran a club and it became known as the most violent club in Europe. I had a partner – Tony Tucker – who got involved with drugs.

“He got involved with importing drugs and it was a violent place but came to a head 25 years ago this year. A policeman’s daughter [Leah Betts] died.

Undated Essex Police handout photos of (left to right) Patrick Tate, Anthony Tucker and Craig Rolfe, who all died in a 1995 triple gangland killing

“And it all came to an awful end on December 6 when my business partner Tucker, his friend Rolfe and Tate, were all shot dead in a Range Rover in Essex.

“That’s the story and it sparked a lot of media interest.

“I wrote a book about it because I couldn’t put my view across – an 18-year-old girl died.

“I became the natural target [due to the others being killed] so I wrote a book and it got a lot of interest and they started making films about it.”

Mr O’Mahoney left the nightclub on November 16, 1995 – the night Leah Betts died – and wrote about his experiences in a series of books.

The Rise of the Footsoldier series started in 2007 and has since spawned five films, which the author said he had never been too keen on.

Mr O’Mahoney said: “I’ve never really liked them at all, there’s a lot of artistic licence and I’m 60 now – to glamorise murder and the like I’m not into.

“The guys who made the film got in touch about a film about Tony Tucker – he was the sort of violent guy who would get others to do his dirty work, so he never hurt people himself.

Essex Police handout photos of Michael Steele (left), 62, of Great Bentley, Essex, and Jack Whomes, 44, of Brockford, Suffolk, who were jailed for the 1995 killing of three men in what became known as the 'Essex Boys murder'

“So I said there’s not much of a story there – never been arrested, never been caught, really.

“They said, ‘we’ll do it’ anyway and about two months later they said, ‘we need a bit of help, can you give us some background’?

“I said I was his partner and explained my role there, so they said ‘give us that story and we’ll work with that’.

“Vinnie Jones liked the script and I thought it was better to have him play me than Barry off Eastenders – no offence to him, obviously – and that’s how it came about really.”

The film had been scheduled for release early next year but has since been delayed as a result of the pandemic, with a likely release date being around Easter.

“Vinnie is a fantastic actor for this type of movie,” added Mr O’Mahoney. “I was quite surprised by him, really. I always imagined him as quite small but he’s much bigger in person.

“And he’s honestly a really good guy – no airs or graces, either. A really top guy,” he added.

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