PC Harper killing: Three teenagers jailed over police officer's death

31 July 2020, 09:12 | Updated: 31 July 2020, 22:04

Three teenagers have been jailed over the killing of PC Andrew Harper.

Henry Long, 19, and Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, had denied murder. Long admitted manslaughter and his co-accused were found guilty of the same offence by a jury at the Old Bailey in central London last week.

There were tears and gasps from some people in the public gallery on Friday as Long was sentenced to 16 years in prison, and Bowers and Cole handed jail terms of 13 years each.

Reacting to their punishments, Long looked up briefly to glance at members of his family, while Cole kept his head bowed and Bowers appeared shocked.

PC Harper was dragged for a mile behind their car, after he tried to stop the group towing away a quad bike, stolen from outside a house in Berkshire in August last year.

The judge, Mr Justice Edis, said his role was to impose a sentence against the teenagers responsible for PC Harper's death which reflected "the seriousness of this case and protects the public".

Passing sentence, the judge said getaway driver Long was "dangerous" and had described the events as "just an ordinary police chase".

He described the killers as "young, unintelligent but professional criminals", and said none of them had "shown anything resembling remorse".

"You killed a talented and brave young police officer who was going above and beyond his duty in order to provide a public service," he told them.

"You did so because you have deliberately decided to expose any police officer that got in your way to a risk of death."

The 28-year-old Thames Valley police officer's grieving widow, Lissie Harper, has said she was "utterly shocked and appalled" at the decision not to convict the trio of murder.

The pair were childhood sweethearts and had been in a relationship for 13 years.

She has since called on the government to intervene, despite a retrial being unusual.

Reading out her victim impact statement today, she described to the court the "indescribable trauma" of being "robbed" of a future with her "soulmate", and finding herself in "a lost and endless world" following her husband's death.

"My life often feels bleak, hopeless, irreparable," she said, breaking down twice as she spoke.

"Not only did these men take this man from me, they took our future too.

"They took more than one life away that day, they stole the person I used to be.

"I am now a shadow of the person I once was. Broken, distraught, beaten, a void, an empty shell."

Deborah Adlam, PC Harper's mother, added in her victim impact statement: "I have sat in the mortuary of my son's covered body, too damaged for me to see. He was our first-born child and he has been ripped from me."

Earlier, at the start of his sentencing remarks, the judge had 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."

He added: "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."

A fourth defendant, Thomas King, 21, from Basingstoke, who had admitted conspiracy to steal a quad bike, was sentenced to two years in prison.

Lissie Harper's mother, Julie Beckett, applauded at the end of the hearing.

PC Harper's family left the Old Bailey without commenting on the sentences.

Detective Superintendent Stuart Blaik, the senior investigating officer, said afterwards: "Today we have some justice for Andrew Harper, and those responsible for his death are going to prison.

"These are three people who I do not believe have ever shown an ounce of genuine remorse or contrition for their actions. They did their best to frustrate the police investigation."

He also addressed the controversy which has accompanied the verdicts of not guilty in relation to the murder counts.

The officer said: "I am aware there has been much discussion amongst the media and the public about those verdicts, but today I welcome the judge's sentencing remarks.

"These were fully reflective of the seriousness of the offence and their culpability."

He added: "We will always remember PC Andrew Harper and we will never forget the ultimate sacrifice he made when protecting the public from these selfish and reckless criminals."