Pc Harper's widow describes 'own life sentence' after 'disappointing' verdict

This video contains distressing images
  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Martha Fairlie

Pc Andrew Harper’s widow has said she is "immensely disappointed" with the verdict after three teenagers were convicted of manslaughter in the death of her husband.

Henry Long, 19, and his passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18 are facing years in jail for manslaughter - with Long cleared of the charge of murder.

The teenagers admitted plotting theft and Long pleaded guilty to manslaughter but each denied knowing that Pc Harper was there.

Lissie Harper, who described the crime as “barbaric”, spoke outside the Old Bailey to say she thought she would be talking about “a very different verdict”.

Ms Harper said: "I now have my own life sentence to bear".

“I am for the second time in one year utterly shocked and appalled,” she said.

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

“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 he was.”

Lissie Harper (centre), the widow of Pc Andrew Harper, speaks to the media outside the Old Bailey. Credit: PA

Newlywed Pc Harper, 28, became entangled in a tow rope attached to the teenagers' Seat Toledo as he tried to apprehend them

The trio were determined to escape “at all costs” after stealing a quad bike in Berkshire on August 15 last year, the court heard.

Long drove off at “breakneck” speed, dragging the Thames Valley Police officer for more than a mile along country lanes before he was dislodged, having suffered horrific injuries.

Their defence claimed the incident was a “freak event” that none of them could have planned or foreseen.

But the prosecution said at more than 6ft and weighing 14 stone, the defendants must have been aware Pc Harper was being dragged to his death.

A reconstruction suggested that rather than stopping, Long swerved in the road to try to throw him off.

The Seat Toledo with tow rope that dragged Pc Harper to his death. Credit: PA

In a statement outside of court, Ms Harper said: “Andrew served in Thames Valley Police with honour. He went out night after night risking his life for the safety and the 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."

Craig O’Leary, chairman of Thames Valley Police Federation, said: “The horrendous events of August 15 last year will never be forgotten by any Thames Valley Police officer. “Pc Andrew Harper loved being a police officer. He loved being a Thames Valley Police officer. And today and every day his colleagues remember him as ‘Harps’, a brave hero killed on duty doing his job. He is still incredibly missed by many. “Andrew should have been going home that summer night to his wife and looking forward to a long and loving marriage and a highly successful career.

"That was taken away from him by cowardly criminals who are not worthy of being named.

“Sadly on very rare and horrendous occasions a colleague makes the ultimate sacrifice. When that happens, we must ensure they are never forgotten – and in Thames Valley Police we shall never forget Andrew or his bravery that night.”

Pc Andrew Harper and his wife, Lissie Credit: Thames Valley Police/PA

He added: “On two occasions – due to the Covid-19 pandemic – Andrew’s family, friends and colleagues have had to listen to heart-breaking evidence in the trial into his murder. At times it has been gruesome and incredibly difficult to hear.

"And we must pay tribute to the dignity and bravery Lissie and family have all shown throughout the two trials.”

Senior investigating officer, Detective Superintendent Stuart Blaik of the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Unit, said the force respected the jury’s decision but added: “No matter what the verdicts, there would have been no sense of victory.”

He said: “Pc Andrew Harper was a brave, young, dedicated police officer who waskilled in the act of doing his job and trying to protect the public.

“Thames Valley Police, the wider policing family, and the country as a whole is proud of Pc Harper for his dedicated service to protect the public, which ultimately cost him his life. We are all honoured to have called him our colleague.

“He will always be remembered.”

A police officer, pictured last year, paying tribute to Pc Andrew Harper near to the place he died. Credit: PA

Jaswant Kaur Narwal, chief crown prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern, said: “This is a truly heart-breaking case in which a young police officer with everything to look forward to tragically lost his life in the line of duty.

“He was killed trying to stop suspects who were prepared to go to any lengths to get away with their crime.”

She said following an “emotional trial” she was “pleased the jury has found all three culpable for Pc Harper’s death”.

Senior crown prosecutor Rebecca Waller said the verdicts marked the end of an “extremelydifficult trial” for Pc Harper’s family, friends and colleagues who showed "great strength, courage and integrity”.

She added: “We are really pleased to say that the three people responsible for Pc AndrewHarper’s death have been convicted.”