Three teenagers guilty of killing PC Andrew Harper by dragging him to his death after failed burglary – but cleared of his murder

PC ANDREW Harper’s widow wept as three teen thugs were today cleared of his brutal murder but found guilty of manslaughter.

Heartbroken Lissie Harper cried in the well of the Old Bailey while defendants Henry Long, 19, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, hugged each other to the sound of their cheering families as the verdicts were read out.





The three watched the verdict via videolink after the jury had deliberated for almost two days.

They are now facing substantially shorter jail sentences after being convicted of the lesser charge.

All three had also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal the quad bike.

It came after the court heard a car driven by Long at "breakneck speed" swung PC Harper "like a pendulum" along a country lane, as he apprehended the teen gang during a botched robbery near Reading, Berks.

HEARTLESS

The heartless thugs smirked and laughed as his horrific injuries were read out to jurors.

While Bowers was so bored during the trial he fell asleep as the prosecutor showed jurors video footage of the Thames Valley Police officer being dragged to his death.

Pc Harper's tearful widow Lissie was comforted by other family members in court as the verdicts were delivered.

Mr Justice Edis adjourned sentence until next Friday.

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

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."

Ringleader of the teen gang Long was also revealed to be a thief who was taken out of school aged 12 by his father after he got into trouble with teachers.

QUAD BIKE RAID

Jurors were told how the traveller teens had tried to steal the £10,000 bike from the home of Peter Wallis in remote Bradfield Southend, when they were apprehended by PC Harper.

The gang had cased the property earlier in the day and later returned masked and armed with an axe, crowbars and a length of pipe to use against anyone in their way.

They disabled their SEAT Toledo’s rear lights and taped over the number plate but were seen by Mr Wallis taking the Honda TRX500 quad bike and roping its handlebars to the back of the car.

But PC Harper and his colleagues came across the gang driving towards them on narrow Admoor Lane.

Cole unhitched the bike and dived through a passenger window to escape the hero cop who had got out of the unmarked BMW police car.




HERO COP

PC Harper was responding to the reported theft four hours past the end of his shift on August 15 last year, when his ankles got caught in a tow rope attached to the suspects' getaway car .

He was dragged along the stretch of road at 60mph by the SEATin horrendous circumstances.

The court heard he would have been rendered unconscious almost immediately and was unable to free himself.

PC Harper’s body was completely naked apart from his socks when discovered by the officer’s horrified colleagues.

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

The officer was "barely alive" but died at the scene a short time later.

His tragic and agonising death was just four weeks after marrying sweetheart Lissie Beckett.

Prosecutor Jonathan Laidlaw QC told an earlier hearing: "PC Harper was killed in truly shocking circumstances.

"During the course of that high-speed journey, and until at last he became disentangled, his police uniform was quite literally ripped and stripped from his body.

"…PC Harper was left as you can imagine with the most appalling of injuries, from which he died there on the road.

"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."






JURY PROTECTED DURING TRIAL

THE case was dogged by alleged attempts to "frustrate" the investigation and fears over jury nobbling, it can now be reported

Supporters of Long, Bowers and Cole had crowded into the public gallery of the Old Bailey as the case got under way in March.

But no sooner had it started, Mr Justice Edis brought the trial to a halt over an alleged potential plot to intimidate jurors.

He ordered extra security measures to protect the jury.

Without divulging details, he said police had received information "that an attempt is being considered by associates of the defendants to intimidate the jury".

The jury was provided with a private room, and anyone entering the public gallery was asked to provide proof of their identity. A third measure was kept secret.

When the case returned for retrial in June, security was stepped up.

Jurors were referred to by number rather than their name to be sworn in and uniformed police were out in force during a jury visit to rural Berkshire with a drone keeeping an eye overhead.

With the end of the retrial in sight, fears for its integrity surfaced on July 20.

An overly friendly juror was seen by a prison officer to mouth "Bye boys" to the defendants in the dock.

The female juror was discharged just a day before the remaining 11 men and women began deliberating on their verdicts.

'PUT THE MUSIC ON'

After stealing the bike, Long drove at up to 42mph for more than a mile on winding country lanes to evade arrest, before PC Harper finally became dislodged.

The court also heard how the killer driver had told his passengers to “put the music on” as PC Harper was dragged along the road.

Long told the court his passengers were shouting at him to "go this way, go that way, slow down", and said: "I got annoyed because I'm trying to concentrate on getting away and people telling me how to drive, telling me what to do.

"I told them to shut the f*** up, let me drive, put the music on."

Mr Scamardella asked: "Could you hear anything during that stretch of the journey being dragged behind you?"

Long denied that he'd heard or noticed anything.

But within hours of PC Harper’s death the young driver and his two passengers were arrested.

'DISGRACEFUL'

Long initially denied involvement in the incident and told police in a prepared statement that he had been watching The Goonies and Fast And Furious DVDs.

Jurors heard that he told detectives: "Look at me. Do I look like a murderer?"

Later, on September 18, when Long was charged with murder and conspiracy to steal, he said: "I don't give a f*** about any of this."

But during the trial Long finally admitted he had killed the police officer and said it made him feel “disgraceful”.

Defence barrister Rossano Scamardella QC said: "You pleaded guilty to manslaughter – why?

Long replied: "Because I accept that I killed him from what I was doing, the way I was driving."

The lawyer asked: "How do you feel?" The defendant said: "Disgraceful."

Long told jurors he could not sleep and thought about PC Harper's family.

Detective Superintendent Stuart Blaik said the defendants had shown no remorse or helped police piece together what happened during the investigation.

Long pleaded guilty to Pc Harper's manslaughter not because it was "the right thing to do" but because of "overwhelming evidence", he explained.

Mr Blaik added: "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."





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