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Widow of UK police officer ‘immensely disappointed’ as killers are acquitted of murder but found guilty of manslaughter

The teenagers face prison terms for his manslaughter.

Image: PA

Updated Jul 24th 2020, 5:44 PM

PC ANDREW HARPER’s widow has said she is “immensely disappointed” after three teenagers were cleared of his “barbaric” murder.

But driver Henry Long, 19, and his passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, who were determined to escape “at all costs” after stealing a quad bike in Berkshire, are facing years in jail for manslaughter.

Newlywed PC Andrew 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.

All three were cleared of murder by an Old Bailey jury which had deliberated for more than 12 hours, but Cole and Bowers were found guilty of manslaughter.

embedded254715125 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 Source: Thames Valley Police/PA

police-officer-killed-in-sulhamstead Previously unissued photo dated 19/09/19 of Albert Bowers (left) and Jessie Cole (centre) leaving Reading Magistrates Court Source: Jacob King/PA

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 reconstruction suggested that rather than stopping, Long swerved in the road to try to throw him off.

Jurors also saw dashcam footage that appeared to catch the moment Cole turned towards the officer before diving through the window of the getaway car and making good his escape.

‘Barbaric crimes’ 

Harper’s widow Lissie was comforted by other family members in court as the verdicts at the Old Bailey were delivered.

Following the verdicts, 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…

“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”.

Justice Edis adjourned sentencing until next Friday.

police-officer-killed-in-sulhamstead PC Andrew Harper and his wife, Lissie Source: Thames Valley Police/PA

Following the verdicts, Thames Valley Police Detective Superintendent Stuart Blaik said he was “delighted” to get justice for PC Harper following a complex and challenging investigation.

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.

“But I’m very proud of what we’ve done.”

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.

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“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 Source: Thames Valley Police/PA

police-officer-killed-in-sulhamstead File photo dated 01/07/20 of 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 to scene in Sulhamstead, Berkshire where PC Andrew Harper died. Source: 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 15 August last year.

When they came across the thieves towing the £10,000 (about €11,000) 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.

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

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