Teens jailed for manslaughter over death of 'gentle giant' PC Andrew Harper

·News Reporter

Three teenagers have been sentenced for the death of PC Andrew Harper.

Henry Long, 19, was given 16 years behind bars, having served as the getaway driver when the officer got caught in a tow rope and was dragged behind a car while responding to a theft.

Passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, were each handed 13-year sentences on Friday.

The three were cleared of the Thames Valley Police officer’s murder by an Old Bailey jury earlier this monthinstead convicted of manslaughter, to the despair of his 28-year-old widow Lissie Harper, who has called on the government to intervene in the case.

(LtR) Henry Long, 19, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, were sentenced for the death of Andrew Harper (inset). (PA Images/Thames Valley Police)
(LtR) Henry Long, 19, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, were sentenced for the death of Andrew Harper (inset). (PA Images/Thames Valley Police)

His wife Lissie, who he married four weeks before he was killed, said in court: “They took more than one life away that day, they stole the person I used to be.

“Every ounce of beautiful peace gone. In answer to the question: how has Andrew’s death impacted me? You can be satisfied I am now a shadow of the person I once was.

“Broken, distraught, beaten, a void, an empty shell. He gave everything. Andrew will never grace us with his smile – his compassion and selfless generosity.

“I will spend every day for the rest of my life with a hole that will never be filled.”

The verdicts of manslaughter have been met with anguish from the 28-year-old victim’s widow, who has said she is “utterly shocked and appalled” at the decision not to convict the teenagers of murder.

PC Harper was killed after responding to a quadbike theft in Berkshire last year. (PA Images/Thames Valley Police)
PC Harper was killed after responding to a quadbike theft in Berkshire last year. (PA Images/Thames Valley Police)

The original trial was abandoned the day the country went into lockdown in March, while extra security measures were ordered for the retrial, which started on June 23, amid fears of potential juror intimidation by supporters of the defendants.

And 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

Justice Edis, sentencing, 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 said the three had “killed a talented and brave young police officer who was going above and beyond his duty in order to provide a public service”.

“You did so because you have deliberately decided to expose any police officer that got in your way to a risk of death,” he told the teenagers.

PCs Harper and Andrew Shaw responded to a report of a stolen quad bike from a property in Stanford Dingley, Berkshire, late on 15 August 2019.

They found their car face to face with the thieves’ Seat Toledo, towing a £10,000 Honda quadbike while driving up a lane.

PC Harper left the police car to chase Cole, who had unhooked the rope between the thieves’ car and the quadbike.

Police officers pay their respects at the scene in Sulhamstead, Berkshire. (PA Images)
Police officers pay their respects at the scene in Sulhamstead, Berkshire. (PA Images)
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 jury site visit to scene. (PA Images)
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 jury site visit to scene. (PA Images)

Cole dived into the Seat and Long drove off at more than 40mph, dragging along PC Harper, who was caught in the rope.

He was dragged for more than a mile before he was dislodged and suffered catastrophic injuries as his uniform was stripped away.

Officers found him unconscious and barely alive near the A4 shortly after. He died at the scene.

The Seat was found at the nearby Four Houses Corner caravan site.

The teenagers admitted plotting the quadbike theft and Long pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but all three denied knowing that PC Harper was attached to the rope.

The scene at Ufton Lane, near Sulhamstead, Berkshire, where PC Andrew Harper was killed. (PA Images)
The scene at Ufton Lane, near Sulhamstead, Berkshire, where PC Andrew Harper was killed. (PA Images)

The defence claimed the incident was an unforeseeable “freak event” and Long said he did not see or hear the officer, nor was he alerted by passengers Cole and Bowers that he was there.

The prosecution argued that PC Harper’s 6ft frame and 14 stone weight meant the trio must have known they were dragging him to his death.

Justice Edis said: “Manslaughter cases range greatly in seriousness.

“Sometimes death may be caused by an act of gross carelessness, sometimes it is very close to a case of murder in its seriousness.

“That is so, here.”

PC Harper was in Thames Valley Police’s Roads Policing Unit, and had been due to clock off four hours before the incident took place.

On Friday, his mother Deborah Adlam said: “He died because these defendants chose to steal a quad bike.

“My family and I feel broken – can you imagine a loved one dying with such indignity?

Deborah Adlam, the mother of PC Andrew Harper, and stepfather Phil arrive at the Old Bailey in London. (Yui Mok/PA Wire)
Deborah Adlam, the mother of PC Andrew Harper, and stepfather Phil arrive at the Old Bailey in London. (Yui Mok/PA Wire)

“He was our first-born child and he has been ripped from me.

“I haven’t been able to work for fear of breaking down, my mind just isn’t in the right place, my anxiety is overpowering.

“I hardly sleep… I have no motivation or even daily routine – chores or cooking a meal, it just feels pointless now.”

His wife said previously PC Harper was a “a gentle giant with a heart of gold... our superman, our bodyguard, our light in the dark”.

Reacting to the jury’s decision to clear the three of murder, Lissie Harper said she was “utterly shocked and appalled” at the decision.

Lissie Harper criticised the jury's decision to clear the trio of murder. (PA Images)
Lissie Harper criticised the jury's decision to clear the trio of murder. (PA Images)

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

She wrote to Boris Johnson, home secretary Priti Patel and former Labour home secretary Lord David Blunkett urging them and others “to right such a despicable wrong for our country”.

Prosecutor Jonathan Polnay told the Old Bailey that Long has previous convictions for battery and being drunk in a public place, while Bowers has three convictions for five offences, including sexual assault and causing intentional harm or distress which was racially aggravated.

The judge described the three as “young, unintelligent but professional criminals” and none 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.”

Long’s barrister said he had genuine remorse for killing PC Harper.