Killers ‘showed no remorse’ and friends and families ‘tried to thwart’ police

The officer who led the hunt for Pc Andrew Harper’s killers said they showed no remorse and their friends and relatives sought to frustrate his investigation.

Detective Superintendent Stuart Blaik vowed to Pc Harper’s family to find out what happened after the 28-year-old was found mortally injured on a country lane in Berkshire.

But he said the killers took a “conscious decision” not to assist police from the outset” and officers “were being frustrated by family and friends”.

Mr Blaik said: “I did not have the pleasure of knowing Andrew Harper but a lot of my colleagues did know him.

“We will give the public the same level of expertise in terms of an investigation like this, regardless of whether Andrew was a police officer or not.

“The fact he was a police officer and one of our own of course, it’s paid a huge toll on all of us.

“But I’m very proud of what we’ve done. It’s been an incredibly difficult investigation for a whole host of reasons.

“But ultimately what I set out to do when I met the family very early on, I said I would try my very best for their sake and for Andrew’s to establish what happened that night.”

It was the defendants’ “criminality” in stealing a quad bike that put them on course to meet Pc Harper and his crewmate Pc Andrew Shaw, with “catastrophic consequences”.

Mr Blaik said: “Andrew and Pc Shaw were on their way home.

“They did not have to respond to this call for assistance from a member of the public.

“But that’s not what we do. We are there to protect life and property.

“Despite having worked a long shift already they responded to that, and tragically Andrew has paid the ultimate price for that.

“But that’s what police officers do up and down the country, day in, day out.

“We go towards trouble – we don’t run away from it.

Police officer killed in Sulhamstead
Police officer killed in Sulhamstead

“I don’t think for one minute these three defendants set out to kill a police officer that night but there was a point when the police and the three of them came together and they made a decision and that decision has had catastrophic consequences.”

Mr Blaik described the investigation as the “most complex” of his 28-year career.

“It’s late at night, dark country lanes with not an awful lot to go on in the very early stages.

“It’s been a huge investigation and it has taken up an incredible amount of resources and time over the last seven or eight months.

“We located the vehicle on Four Houses Corner site within about 10 minutes of these dreadful events.

“The challenge was always going to be identifying who was in the car at that particular time.

“A decision was taken very early on to arrest all the males on the site that night.

“While we were being frustrated by family and friends, we were able to work through that and establish exactly what happened and who was involved.”

Police officer killed in Sulhamstead
Police officer killed in Sulhamstead

Examination of mobile phones provided a breakthrough, forcing Henry Long, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers to admit they had gone out to steal a quad bike in the Seat vehicle the night Pc Harper died.

Long pleaded guilty to Pc Harper’s manslaughter not because it was “the right thing to do” but because of “overwhelming evidence”, he said.

Mr Blaik said: “We went to a full reconstruction to try and replicate and re-enact those events as best we possibly could with the information we had.

“The expert we employed was absolutely unequivocal in his conclusions. It was clear and obvious from the outset there was something attached to the back of the car.”

The defendants had shown no remorse or helped police piece together what happened, he said.

“They had every opportunity to do that and it was a conscious decision by them not to assist police from the very outset, all the way through, and even during the trial.”

He said it was “hugely frustrating” when the first trial was stopped due to the coronavirus lockdown, but added: “We are here. We’ve got through the trial now and I’m delighted we are in a position where the family have not got to go through the ordeal another time.”

On the impact of the tragedy on Pc Harper’s young widow, Mr Blaik said: “I don’t think you can ever imagine what Lissie has been through, all the family and all his close friends and colleagues.

“It’s just absolutely devastating for them. This whole process of the court trial, having to relive what’s happened and listen to the grisly detail of how Andrew came to his death.

“I can’t imagine what they have been through, what they are going through, and continue to go through.”