Three teenage Travelers who got away with the murder of a UK policeman laugh for the cameras as they leave court
They dragged PC Harper, 28, along in their car as they tried to tow a stolen quad bike in Berkshire in August 2019.
PC Harper suffered catastrophic fatal injuries when his ankles got caught in a strap trailing behind the vehicle driven by Henry Long.
PC Harper was married just four weeks before he lost his life. He was due to go on honeymoon within days.
And now PC Harper’s widow, Lissie Harper, said she felt “utterly shocked and appalled” at the verdict, adding that she was “immensely disappointed” they were cleared of murder.
She said she now has her “own life sentence to bear” which will be much worse “than anyone facing a meagre number of years in prison will experience”.
Henry Long, 19, and his two accomplices Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole, both 18, had denied murder.
They were cleared of this at trial and were seen laughing and smiling whilst being taken back in vehicles to prison as they were found guilty of the much lesser sentence of manslaughter.
Long, who was the driver, had denied murder but admitted to manslaughter but Bowers and Cole had denied all charges, stating that Long was the driver and PC Harper’s death had nothing to do with them.
However, in the UK, a ‘joint enterprise’ law means people who set out to commit a crime together can be charged together if another crime is committed.
Often in the UK, bank robbery drivers are convicted of murder if someone is killed whilst robbing the bank though they were in the vehicle and not physically present.
The trial was told that the 28-year-old Thames Valley police officer died in “truly shocking circumstances” after his ankles were caught in a rope hanging from the back of the car.
As the car sped away, PC Harper was knocked off his feet and “swung from side to side” at the end of the rope, which had been used to tow the stolen quad bike.
Long told the court he had no idea PC Harper was there and ‘he would have stopped and helped him had he known.’
The court heard how the force of impact on the officer’s body, as he was dragged along the road, was so severe it ripped off his uniform and personal belongings.
Vehicle cameras show his duty partner, PC Shaw, desperately try to catch up with him that summer evening.
He picked up the police radio and told the control room: “My colleague PC Harper got out of the vehicle, ran after the vehicle. I’ve now lost him.”
As he drove down the country road, he stopped to pick up PC Harper’s stab vest.
In the transmission, the officer can be heard shouting: “There’s a body in the road, body in the road. Can we go to the body?”
PC Shaw radioed back saying: “That’s probably PC Harper. I’ve just found his stab vest in the road.”
PC Harper’s injuries were so severe he was declared dead at the roadside.
A police helicopter tracked the Seat car the three teenagers were trying in into a traveler campsite near Burghfield Common near Reading, Berkshire.
The three teenagers, who all have links to the travelling community, were among 10 suspects arrested in the days after the tragedy.
Senior crown prosecutor Rebecca Waller said: “It has been a very difficult case for us because when the Crown Prosecution Service and Thames Valley Police joined forces, we had 10 in custody and obviously they had all been arrested from the caravan site, with no one saying anything.
“There was no forensic evidence, or in fact direct evidence to link anyone with the vehicle, so it was analysis of phones particularly that linked Henry Long and Albert Bowers to the evening offence.
“Their phones had been put out of the hands of the police and have never been recovered.”
Acting Detective Superintendent Stuart Blaik, who led the Thames Valley Police investigation, said: “The prosecution’s case has never been that these three set out that night to kill a police officer, that’s never been our point.
“The point that we make is that when the police and these three came together in Admoor Lane, they’ve made a decision and their decision was, a jury has heard, that they would get away from police at all costs and each of them said that.
“And that cost has caused Andrew to lose his life.”
All three will be sentenced at a later date.