Widow ‘immensely disappointed’ as tragic Pc’s killers acquitted of murder

Pc Andrew Harper's widow has said she is "immensely disappointed" and "utterly shocked and appalled" after three teenagers were cleared of his "barbaric" murder.

Furious driver Henry Long, 19, and his passengers Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole, both 18, still face years in jail for manslaughter following an Old Bailey trial.

The court had heard how they were determined to escape "at all costs" after stealing a quad bike in Berkshire on the night of August 15 last year.

Newlywed Harper, 28, became entangled in a tow rope attached to their Seat Toledo as he tried to apprehend them.

Long drove off at "breakneck" speed, dragging the Thames Valley Police officer for more than a mile along country lanes before he was dislodged, having suffered horrific injuries.

The teenagers admitted plotting the theft and Long pleaded guilty to manslaughter but each denied knowing that Pc Harper was there.

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Pc Andrew Harper killed in ‘truly shocking circumstances’
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Pc Andrew Harper killed in ‘truly shocking circumstances’
OXFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: The helmet of PC Andrew Harper rests on his coffin during his funeral service at Christ Church Cathedral on October 14, 2019 in Oxford, England. Police Constable Andrew Harper was killed whilst he responded to reported burglary on August 15 this year. (Photo by Steve Parsons - Pool/Getty Images)
PC Andrew Harper and wife
Jury selection begins in Pc Andrew Harper murder trial
Pc Andrew Harper killed in ‘truly shocking circumstances’, court told
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Teenager Henry Long pleads guilty to killing Pc Andrew Harper but denies murder
PA REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2019 File photo dated 20/08/19 of a police officer paying his respects at the scene near Ufton Lane, Sulhamstead, Berkshire, where Thames Valley Police officer Pc Andrew Harper, 28, died.
A dedication to PC Andrew Harper on a motorbike as thousands of motorcyclists take part in a 'ride of respect' in Oxfordshire in memory of PC Andrew Harper, who was killed whilst on duty in August. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
OXFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: The police insignia on the coffin at the funeral of PC Andrew Harper at Christ Church Cathedral on October 14, 2019 in Oxford, England. Police Constable Andrew Harper was killed whilst he responded to reported burglary on August 15 this year. (Photo by Ben Birchall - Pool/Getty Images)
OXFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: Pallbearers carry the coffin of PC Andrew Harper during his funeral at Christ Church Cathedral on October 14, 2019 in Oxford, England. Police Constable Andrew Harper was killed whilst he responded to reported burglary on August 15 this year. (Photo by Ben Birchall - Pool/Getty Images)
OXFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: Pallbearers carry the coffin of PC Andrew Harper during his funeral at Christ Church Cathedral on October 14, 2019 in Oxford, England. Police Constable Andrew Harper was killed whilst he responded to reported burglary on August 15 this year. (Photo by Ben Birchall - Pool/Getty Images)
OXFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: The coffin at the funeral of PC Andrew Harper at Christ Church Cathedral on October 14, 2019 in Oxford, England. Police Constable Andrew Harper was killed whilst he responded to reported burglary on August 15 this year. (Photo by Ben Birchall - Pool/Getty Images)
OXFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: The guard of honour bow beside the hearse containing the coffin of PC Andrew Harper as the cortege leaves the quadrangle of Christ Church Cathedral on October 14, 2019 in Oxford, England. Police Constable Andrew Harper was killed whilst he responded to reported burglary on August 15 this year. (Photo by Ben Birchall - Pool/Getty Images)
OXFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: The coffin of PC Andrew Harper is carried during his funeral at Christ Church Cathedral on October 14, 2019 in Oxford, England. Police Constable Andrew Harper was killed whilst he responded to reported burglary on August 15 this year. (Photo by Ben Birchall - Pool/Getty Images)
OXFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: The guard of honour bow at the funeral of PC Andrew Harper at Christ Church Cathedral on October 14, 2019 in Oxford, England. Police Constable Andrew Harper was killed whilst he responded to reported burglary on August 15 this year. (Photo by Ben Birchall - Pool/Getty Images)
OXFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: Thames Valley Police Constable Jordan Johnstone pays tribute to his friend PC Andrew Harper during the funeral service at Christ Church Cathedral on October 14, 2019 in Oxford, England. Police Constable Andrew Harper was killed whilst he responded to reported burglary on August 15 this year. (Photo by Steve Parsons - Pool/Getty Images)
OXFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: The helmet of PC Andrew Harper is carried out during his funeral service at Christ Church Cathedral on October 14, 2019 in Oxford, England. Police Constable Andrew Harper was killed whilst he responded to reported burglary on August 15 this year. (Photo by Steve Parsons - Pool/Getty Images)
Sean Harper, the brother of PC Andrew Harper, leaves a symbol of his life during his funeral service at Christ Church Cathedral in St Aldate's, Oxford. Thames Valley Police officer Pc Harper died from multiple injuries after being dragged under a van while responding to reports of a burglary. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
OXFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: Police Officer stands guard outside of Christ Church Cathedral during the funeral of Police Constable Andrew Harper on October 14, 2019 in Oxford, England. Police Constable Andrew Harper was killed whilst he responded to reported burglary on August 15 this year. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
Members of the public line the High Street in Oxford to pay their respects as the funeral cortege for PC Andrew Harper, the Thames Valley Police officer who died from multiple injuries after being dragged under a van while responding to reports of a burglary, makes its way to Christ Church Cathedral in St Aldate's, Oxford. (Photo by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)
OXFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: Mounted police lead a funeral procession to Oxford's Christ Church Cathedral ahead of a service for PC Harper on October 14, 2019 in Oxford, England. Police Constable Andrew Harper was killed whilst he responded to reported burglary on August 15 this year. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
OXFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: A police officer blows her nose as the funeral procession makes its way to Oxford's Christ Church Cathedral ahead of a service for PC Harper on October 14, 2019 in Oxford, England. Police Constable Andrew Harper was killed whilst he responded to reported burglary on August 15 this year. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
OXFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 14: Police Officers line the street for the funeral of Police Constable Andrew Harper out of Christ Church Cathedral on October 14, 2019 in Oxford, England. Police Constable Andrew Harper was killed whilst he responded to reported burglary on August 15 this year. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
A picture PC Andrew Harper stuck to a Honda Goldwing motorbike as thousands of motorcyclists take part in a 'ride of respect' in Oxfordshire in memory of PC Andrew Harper, who was killed whilst on duty in August.
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Their defence claimed the incident was a "freak event" that none of them could have planned or foreseen.

But the prosecution said at more than 6ft and weighing 14 stone, the defendants must have been aware Pc Harper was being dragged to his death.

A jury deliberated for more than 12 hours to clear all three of murder but convict Cole and Bowers of manslaughter.

The defendants, who had previously been seen laughing in the dock, hugged each other.

Following the verdicts, Pc Harper's widow Lissie thanked the police and prosecution who had "stood in our corner and fought to make sure these men were made to repent for their barbaric crimes".

She said: "This crime, whatever the outcome deliberated over in court, was brutal and senseless.

"The way in which Andrew was robbed of his life we all know to be barbaric and inexplicable.

"I am immensely disappointed with the verdict given today.

"Andrew served in Thames Valley Police with honour.

"He went out night after night risking his life for the safety and the wellbeing of the innocent as all police officers do with passion.

Police officer killed in Sulhamstead
From left, driver Henry Long, 19, who dragged Pc Andrew Harper to his death, who has been found not guilty at the Old Bailey of murder but had earlier pleaded guilty to manslaughter and his passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, who were cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter (Thames Valley Police/PA)

"Ultimately he laid down his life for us all and it pains me more than I can ever explain that this has not been appreciated by the very people who should have seen his heroic and selfless duty as so many other members of the public – total strangers – clearly do."

She added: "Myself and Andrew's family will never come to terms with our new lives, we will never understand how such a beautiful, loving, decent human being could be dealt this fate."

She said her new life would be "a lot more painful" and "soul destroying" than anyone facing a "meagre number of years".

It can now be reported that Long had previously threatened to "ram" a police officer as he chatted with a police community support officer (PCSO).

In the conversation in July 2018, ruled inadmissible during the trial, Long said: "You can't touch me now 'cos I've passed my driving test and if police try to stop me I will ram them."

Police officer killed in Sulhamstead
The Seat Toledo with tow rope and the police car in a similar position at the site of the meeting of the vehicles during the Old Bailey jury site visit (Steve Parsons/PA)

Long had previous convictions for battery, being drunk and disorderly and shoplifting.

Bowers also had youth convictions including for battery, criminal damage, sexual assault, and having an offensive weapon.

All three defendants were said to be members of the travellers' community.

Their first trial was abandoned the day the nation went into lockdown in March.

In addition to social distancing for the retrial, Mr Justice Edis had also ordered extra security measures amid fears of potential juror intimidation by supporters of the defendants, it can now be reported.

Thames Valley Police Detective Superintendent Stuart Blaik said: "Long, Bowers and Cole have shown no remorse for what happened that evening at any stage."

He was pleased to get justice for Pc Harper following a complex and challenging investigation.

Police officer killed in Sulhamstead
Thames Valley Police senior investigating officer, Detective Superintendent Stuart Blaik speaks to the media (Aaron Chown/PA)

He said: "The fact he was a police officer and one of our own of course, it's paid a huge toll on all of us."

On the impact on the family, he 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 in to the grisly detail of how Andrew came to his death."

CPS prosecutor Rebecca Waller said she hoped the verdicts would help Pc Harper's family come to terms with the tragedy.

On the defendants' behaviour, she said: "If they had stopped, potentially his life could have been saved but they were determined to get away at all costs.

"That cost was the life of Pc Andrew Harper.

"You have to remember there were members of the public, not only Pc Harper, who could have been in the road who could have encountered them, and travelling at those speeds over those narrow roads without lights, it is not impossible to imagine that other people could have been killed."

Police officer killed in Sulhamstead
Jessie Cole unhooked the bike and dived into the Seat, pursued by Pc Harper moments before he became entangled (Thames Valley Police/PA)

The court had heard how Pc Harper had already finished a long shift when he and his colleague Pc Andrew Shaw responded to a report of a stolen quad bike from a property in Stanford Dingley, Berkshire, on the night of August 15 last year.

When they came across the thieves towing the £10,000 Honda bike in Admoor Lane, Pc Harper got out of the unmarked BMW police car and chased Cole, who had unhooked the rope.

After Cole dived into the Seat, Long made off at speeds of 42.5mph, carrying Pc Harper behind for 91 seconds.

His uniform was stripped away and he was found by colleagues unconscious and barely alive in Ufton Lane near the A4.

Despite attempts to save him, he died at the scene.

Meanwhile, another officer gave chase and a police helicopter tracked the Seat to Four Houses Corner caravan site.

Police officer killed in Sulhamstead
Albert Bowers (left) and Jessie Cole leaving Reading Magistrates Court after an earlier hearing in September (Jacob King/PA)

Following his arrest, Long concocted a false alibi that he had been watching the racing film Fast And Furious at the travellers' site.

But an examination of mobile phone data eventually placed all the defendants in the Seat.

Giving evidence, Long admitted being a habitual thief who had been involved in many police chases before.

On the night Pc Harper died, he said it was chaos inside the car and he ordered the radio to be turned up to drown out his passengers' shouting.

Cole denied seeing Pc Harper or hearing him shout to him seconds before he leapt through the car window.

The defendants also denied that an axe, three crowbars, a screwdriver, metal pipe, and a pair of choppers found in the Seat were to be used as "weapons" if they were challenged while stealing the bike.

Mr Justice Edis adjourned sentence until next Friday.

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