Pc Andrew Harper's widow 'immensely disappointed' after teens convicted of manslaughter

24 July 2020, 11:41

Pc Andrew Harper and his wife, Lissie, celebrating their wedding
Pc Andrew Harper and his wife, Lissie, celebrating their wedding. Picture: Mark Lord / PA Media

By Megan White

The grieving widow of a police officer who was dragged to his death by three teenagers today said she was "immensely disappointed" that they were not found guilty of his murder.

Lissie Harper said she was "shocked and appalled" by the verdict after her husband was killed "in the line of duty" as he attempted to stop the teens from stealing a quad bike.

She said: "I now have my own life sentence to bear, and believe me when I say it will be a much more painful, soul-destroying and treacherous journey than anyone facing a meagre number of years in prison will experience."

Henry Long, 19, was found guilty of manslaughter after having previously admitted the offence.

Passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, were also found guilty of manslaughter at the Old Bailey on Friday.

The three were all found not guilty of murder. They admitted conspiracy to steal a quad bike.

Pc Andrew Harper was responding to a reported theft four hours past the end of his shift when his ankles got caught in a tow rope attached to the getaway car.

The 28-year-old policeman had become dislodged more than a mile down a country road by the time his colleague, Pc Andrew Shaw, came across him "barely alive".

Cole, from Aldermaston, and Bowers and Long, both from Mortimer, Reading, admitted conspiring to steal the quad bike.

Speaking outside court, Mrs Harper said: “Standing here before all of you, I honestly thought I would be addressing you following a very different verdict.

“I had planned to talk of the beautiful future Andrew and I had before us.

“I expected my words would be very different and in all honesty, I am, for the second time in the space of one year, utterly shocked and appalled.

Pc Andrew Harper was responding to a reported theft four hours past the end of his shift when his ankles got caught in a tow rope
Pc Andrew Harper was responding to a reported theft four hours past the end of his shift when his ankles got caught in a tow rope. Picture: PA
Lissie Harper spoke outside the Old Bailey on Friday
Lissie Harper spoke outside the Old Bailey on Friday. Picture: PA

“The decisions made in these courts by strangers will never change the outcome that has already come to us.

“For many, many agonising months, we had hoped that justice would come in some way for Andrew.

“We have put our faith in the justice system and all who work within it.

“We have waited, with baited breath, and heavy hearts, as the dedicated prosecution barristers, investigation team and Thames Valley Police officers have worked tirelessly and whom we thank sincerely for all that they have done as they stood in our corner and fought to ensure these men were made to repent for their barbaric crime.

“No verdict or sentence will ever bring my incredible, selfless and heroic husband back.

“The result from this trial, I had hoped, would bring justice, but in reality make no difference to the heartwrenching pain I will continue to feel for the rest of my life."

The defendants heard the jury's verdicts over video-link due to problems with a prison van preventing them from being in court.

The trio hugged and held each other's hands when they were cleared of murder, but Bowers cried out when he learned he had been convicted of manslaughter.

After the news sunk in, both Long and Cole became very distressed, with Long apparently in tears having to be comforted by his co-defendants.

Bowers however, seemed elated, and could be seen smiling and patting the other two in an attempt to cheer them up.

A pathologist's report found Pc Harper suffered "a very severe injury to the brain" which is "likely to have rendered him unconscious" after his head struck the ground.

The trial heard Long drove at an average speed of 42.5mph along Admoor Lane in Berkshire, near Reading, on the evening of August 15 in such a fashion that the stricken officer was "swung side-to-side like a pendulum in an effort to dislodge him".

Jurors were told they had been trying to escape police, having been caught in the act of stealing the bike from Bradfield Southend at 11.17pm.

Mr Laidlaw said the thieves were determined to take the vehicle "whatever the cost", having been disturbed earlier in the day.

Not only did they have gloves and masks to avoid detection, but they also had tools with them which might easily have been used as weapons, it was claimed.

Pc Harper and his crewmate responded to the reported theft despite it being well beyond the end of their shift.

Mrs Harper added: “Andrew was taken from us on that horrendous night last year, his life was stolen, and the lives of his family and friends altered forever.

“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 wellbeing of the innocent as all police officers do with passion.

“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.

“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.

“I now have my own life sentence to bear, and believe me when I say it will be a much more painful, soul-destroying and treacherous journey than anyone facing a meagre number of years in prison will experience.

“Myself and our families will spend the rest of our days missing him, loving him, and being utterly proud of the incredible man that he was.

“We will never forget the kindness we as a family have received from all who have supported us over the past year – friends, family, strangers, and the almighty unity of the thin blue line.

“From the depths of our hearts, thank you.”