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  1. ITV Report

Wife of 'hero' officer Andrew Harper pays tribute to 'the love of my life' as hundreds of mourners attend funeral

Hundreds of mourners turned out for the funeral of Andrew Harper. Credit: PA

Pc Andrew Harper's wife paid tribute to "the love of my life" describing him as a "gentle giant with a heart of gold" at a private funeral in Oxford.

The 28-year-old Thames Valley Police officer was killed on August 15 while responding to a burglary four weeks after his wedding.

His widow Lissie, alongside his parents Phil and Debbie and brother Sean, were among 800 mourners who attended the service at Christ Church Cathedral on Monday.

At the service, which was broadcast to a second overspill church, Mrs Harper remembered her husband as the "kindest of kind and sweetest of sweet".

Lissie Harper, the widow of PC Andrew Harper, leaves a symbol of his life during his funeral service. Credit: PA

She told the congregation: "Although Andrew was strong he was also unfailingly kind, a gentle giant with a heart of gold.

"To me, Andrew was everything. My breakfast buddy, my dancing partner, the love of my life."

Mrs Harper said their 13-year relationship began as "true childhood sweethearts".

She continued: "You used to tell me we were a team and that we would get through all of life's hurdles together, how I wish you were here with me now. The hardest challenge of all is losing you.

"My lovely boy, I miss you more and more as the days pass into weeks, my love will never fade and the sound of your laugh will stay with me."

Sean Harper, the brother of PC Andrew Harper. Credit: PA

The service began with a short procession through the city, led by mounted officers of Thames Valley Police and watched by crowds who gathered outside the church to pay their respects.

Members of other emergency services and Home Secretary Priti Patel were also among the congregation.

As the service began, Pc Harper's coffin was placed in the centre of the large cathedral, covered in a navy blue flag with the force's crest on the sides.

Pc Harper's coffin was draped in a navy blue flag with the force's crest on the sides. Credit: PA

Mrs Harper was presented with her late husband's white ceremonial police hat which she placed on his coffin for the duration of the service.

In addition to prayers from Thames Valley Police lead chaplain Rev Helen Arnold, a colleague from the Roads Policing Unit Pc Jordan Johnstone paid tribute to the fallen officer.

Talking about Pc Harper's "infectious" smile and his hobbit-like eating habits, Pc Johnstone said: "Your personality shone through throughout and I'm so very very proud of you.

"I'm privileged to have worked with you and even more so to call you my friend."

Members of Pc Harper's family laid symbols of his life in front of a large photo of him as part of the service.

The Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, the Very Reverend Dr Martyn Percy, gave the address marking "an exceptional man", prior to the final blessing by the Bishop of Oxford.

Dr Percy said: "Andrew's completely unexpected, sudden and tragic death reminds us of the routine risks that police officers take each day.

Pc Andrew Harper who died while responding to reports of a burglary. Credit: Thames Valley Police/PA

"No-one ever anticipates an ordinary call-out ending in such tragedy. "Some might say he was an ordinary man doing an ordinary job. I disagree. He represented policing at its best. He was everything you wanted in a police officer."

A private committal and wake for the close members of Pc Harper's family followed the funeral.

Across the Thames Valley region including Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire flags were flown at half-mast to commemorate the service.

The 28-year-old was killed on duty, as he responded to reports of a burglary on the outskirts of a Berkshire village. He died from multiple injuries after being dragged under a van.

Craig O’Leary, chairman of Thames Valley Police Federation, said Pc Harper was loved by his family, friends and colleagues.

Uniformed officers lined the processional route in Oxford. Credit: ITV Meridian

In a statement, Mr O’Leary said: “Pc Andrew Harper loved being a police officer. It is our sad duty today to pay our last respects to him and support his wife Lissie, his family and his friends at his funeral.

“This has really hit us all hard and shocked everyone in the whole police service.”

LIssie and Andrew Harper on their wedding day. Credit: Family handout
  • Here is the eulogy read by Pc Andrew Harper's wife Lissie, provided by Thames Valley Police, in full:

Today I would like to remember and honour the kind brave and lovely man we all know.

We are all here just for you.

Andrew.

From the ever sweet, lanky, red-faced boy passing me notes in class, to the strong and loyal man you grew to be. I have always known how special you are.

We often talked about how lucky we were to have found and kept each other, true childhood sweethearts, loving one another more and more with each passing day.

Not a day went past that we didn't say I love you.

You used to tell me we were a team and that we would get through all of life's hurdles together, how I wish you were here with me now. The hardest challenge of all is losing you.

We managed to pack so many amazing memories into the last 13 years, travelling the world, buying a house and getting married. You had a contagious love for life, filling each day with laughter and appreciating all the little things.

You have always been a protector. Whether in your role of big brother, fierce friend, loving husband or keeper of peace among the public, keeping everyone safe was your priority, not only in your job but your family too.

Everything was always okay when you were around.

Although Andrew was strong he was also unfailingly kind, a gentle giant with a heart of gold. He wore his uniform with pride and vowed to challenge the bad and celebrate the good.

He loved to be part of a team and had a work ethic to admire. Looking around me today I know that he was classed so very highly among his peers, known for being proactive, kind and fair.

Aside from the police however, Andrew treasured his family above all else, a country boy who loved the outdoors, picnics, barbecues and walking. We took many trips to Cornwall and Andrew was so at peace there, walking on the beach, Cornish pasties and fish and chips, it all made him so happy.

This in fact was the last trip we took together after our wedding.

I didn't realise at the time how precious those memories would become.

To many of you Andrew was a lovely little part of your lives or even just someone who was always there on the periphery of life. However to me Andrew was everything, my breakfast buddy, my dancing partner, the love of my life.

He could fix anything and kept everything, pen lids, Tupperware, countless keys with no home, screws, holey socks and broken bits to glue back together.

He was an adventurer, food lover, board game competitor, he mispronounced words and always fell asleep during film nights.

He loved nights in and laying by the fire, or finding a new road to wander and discover.

He was always ready for the next adventure, never one to be deterred by anything, a positive force of nature. I will treasure every moment we had together from sky-diving, bungee jumping, mountain climbing and white water rafting, to walking on beaches, collecting sea glass, cheeky takeaways and lazy mornings.

We should have had so many more of these days together, for you Andrew above all deserved a lifetime of happiness.

Andrew was so many things to many of us, husband, best friend, brother, son, uncle, nephew and colleague. The kindest of kind and sweetest of sweet.

He could cheer me up when I was down just by pulling a silly face or making a joke. I could never stay mad at him for long because he made me laugh in the middle of an argument.

Oh how I hated that.

I've never known anyone so kind, worry free, forgiving, positive and good as our Andrew.

An animal rescuer, he could often be found laying on a rug with the family dog and even taking many creatures to Tiggywinkles Animal Rescue. If there was an animal in need you always seemed to come across it - hedgehogs, deer and even birds had been known to take a trip in the car with Andrew.

A true friend to all.

If there's one thing Andrew taught me it was to not sweat the small stuff and to treasure each day as if it is a gift. Every time I feel down and without hope I can hear his kind words in my ear telling me to keep going, find laughter, seek happiness.

Forever more I will live each day for you Andrew, every moment of joy, peace, and love I promise to think of my husband and feel lucky to have known him as much as I did, more than anyone.

He was my hero and his spirit will live on in my memories forever.

My lovely boy, I miss you more and more as the days pass into weeks, my love for you will never fade, the sound of your laugh will stay with me. Your beautiful smile and warm embrace will fill my dreams and comfort me as you always have.

A good friend said to me recently that they will never again complain about growing older, every year on this planet is a privilege, every grey hair a blessing, as not all of us will have the honour of getting old. More than anything I wish that my most favourite person had not been taken so early, so cruelly, so unexpectedly.

"I wish" is a thought that no one should have to think!

We should all get the chance to reach the true end of our lives, so for Andrew I only hope that we will live every day, every moment, as if it is our last.

No more "I wish", only "I'm glad".

If everyone on this earth had just an ounce of the kindness and generosity that Andrew had, I know that it would be a better place.

Andrew loved movies. We spent many nights in together with our favourite films and snacks.

So I tried to find something appropriate to say from one of his favourites.

Unfortunately Andrew, the Matrix or Dumb and Dumber didn't quite seem the right fit for this beautiful place, but perhaps this one will.

– Lissie Harper
Lissie and Andrew Harper. Credit: Family handout
  • Mrs Harper then read 'Funeral Blues' - also known as 'Stop All The Clocks' - by W H Auden which featured in the film Four Weddings and A Funeral

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.

Silence the pianos and with muffled drum

Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead

Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead,

Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,

Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,

My working week and my Sunday rest,

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,

I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong

The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.

For nothing now can ever come to any good.