Police Federation Chairman: Pc Andrew Harper killers should "face the rest of their lives in prison"

31 July 2020, 13:22

Pc Andrew Harper died in August 2019
Pc Andrew Harper died in August 2019. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

The chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales said the three teenagers jailed for the manslaughter of PC Andrew Harper should "face the rest of their lives in prison".

John Apter said: "The killing of a police officer should see those responsible face the rest of their lives in prison" following the sentencing of three teenagers over the death of PC Andrew Harper.

In a statement, he said: “My thoughts today are with Lissie Harper and Andrew’s family and colleagues. Those responsible for such a wicked and deliberate crime have forfeited their right to freedom.

“The killing of a police officer should see those responsible face the rest of their lives in prison. If the law won’t allow that in these circumstances then the law must be changed.

"PC Andrew Harper was killed on duty in the most brutal and horrific way; his wife, family, colleagues and the public deserve justice. This is not justice.”

Henry Long, 19, the driver of the car that dragged the officer, was sentenced to 16 years at the Old Bailey on Friday afternoon, after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, were sentenced to 13 years each for manslaughter after the Pc's death in August last year.

A jury cleared the killers of the earlier charge of murder, instead finding Cole and Bowers guilty of manslaughter. Long had previously pleaded guilty to the same charge.

Pc Harper, 28, suffered catastrophic injuries when he was dragged for more than a mile along Berkshire country lanes when he became entangled in a tow rope attached to the teenagers' getaway Seat Toledo car.

He had been sent to apprehend the teenagers who had stolen a quad bike in Stanford Dingley.

Mr Justice Edis said his role was to impose a sentence against the teenagers responsible for Pc Andrew Harper's death which reflected "the seriousness of this case and protects the public".

Henry Long, 19, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, were all sentenced
Henry Long, 19, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, were all sentenced. Picture: PA

Beginning his sentencing remarks, he said: "Nothing which I can do, or could have done, if there had been a conviction for murder, can restore Andrew Harper to his loving wife and family or to the public he served so well.

"His devastating loss in these terrible circumstances will follow his family forever."

He described the killers as "young, unintelligent but professional criminals".

He said none of the defendants had "any real education", and said they had been "taken out of school far too young".

He added: "I reject the contention that any of you has shown remorse."

Prosecutor Jonathan Laidlaw QC, opening the case when it began on June 23, said: "It was a senseless killing of a young police officer in the line of duty, a young man who was doing no more than his job."

Pc Harper's widow Lissie Harper broke down twice as she read her victim statement on Friday morning, telling the court she was in "a lost and endless world".

"This is my third attempt at writing a statement. I simply find myself in a lost and endless world," she said.

"That's the reason in particular this question defeats me - unless you have stood in my shoes, lost a soulmate, a beloved partner you intended to spend your life with - how is this grief possible to describe?

READ MORE: Pc Harper's widow asks Boris Johnson for retrial of husband's killers

READ MORE: Pc Harper's widow 'immensely disappointed' after murder charges dropped

Pc Harper's widow Lissie Harper broke down as she read her victim statement
Pc Harper's widow Lissie Harper broke down as she read her victim statement. Picture: PA

"I have used every word possible to describe this torture - indescribable trauma I have been forced to endure these past 11 months. I have cried and broken down."

Mrs Harper told the court she felt "robbed" of her future with her husband, the 28-year-old Thames Valley Police officer she married four weeks before his death.

The pair were childhood sweethearts and had been in a relationship for 13 years.

Pc Harper's mother also described the anguish of dealing with her first-born's death, and how she sat in the mortuary beside his battered body.

Pc Harper's parents arrived at the Old Bailey on Friday morning
Pc Harper's parents arrived at the Old Bailey on Friday morning. Picture: PA

Speaking outside the court after sentencing, Detective Superintendent Stuart Blaik said: "Today we have seen justice for Andrew Harper and his family.

"These men (the defendants) represented self-interest, greed and utter recklessness."

DS Blaik said of Pc Harper's killers Long, Bowers and Cole: "These are three people who I do not believe have ever shown an ounce of genuine remorse or contrition for their actions, and who did their best to frustrate the police investigation."

He also addressed the controversy which has accompanied the verdicts of not-guilty in relation to the murder counts.

He said: "I am aware there has been much discussion amongst the media and the public about those verdicts, but today I welcome the judge's sentencing remarks.

"These were fully reflective of the seriousness of this offence and their culpability."

He added: "We will always remember Pc Andrew Harper and we will never forget the ultimate sacrifice he made when protecting the public from these selfish and reckless criminals."

Earlier this week his widow Mrs Harper wrote to the Prime Minister to ask for a retrial after her husband's teenage killers were cleared of murder.

In an open letter posted on her Facebook page on Tuesday evening, Mrs Harper wrote to Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Lord Blunkett urging them and others "to right such a despicable wrong for our country".

She wrote: "I implore you to hear my words, see the facts that are laid out before us, and I ask with no expectations other than hope that you might help me to make these changes be considered, to ensure that Andrew is given the retrial that he unquestionably deserves and to see that the justice system in our country is the solid ethical foundation that it rightly should be. Not the joke that so many of us now view it to be."

The original trial was abandoned the day the country went into lockdown in March, while for the retrial Mr Justice Edis ordered extra security measures amid fears of potential juror intimidation by supporters of the defendants.

A female juror was discharged just a day before the remaining 11 started deliberating on their verdicts after she was seen by a prison officer to mouth "Bye boys" to the teenagers in the dock.

The defendants, who had previously been seen laughing, hugged each other after the manslaughter verdicts were returned following more than 12 hours of deliberations.