A jury has found three males guilty of the manslaughter of 28-year-old PC Andrew Harper following a three-week trial.
PC Andrew Harper was killed after he was dragged behind a car that was being driven by Long.
Long and his accomplices, Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole had carried out a late-night masked raid on a property in the Thames Valley area, during which they stole a £10,000 quad bike. The killers armed themselves with an axe a crowbar and a length of pipe to use against anyone who tried to stop them.
As they made off from the burglary, the quad bike was being towed behind a Seat Toledo that was being driven by Long as Jessie Cole steered the quad.
As PC Andrew Harper and his colleague PC Andrew Shaw were heading back to their station to clock-off from their shift – having already worked several hours of overtime – the 999 call, made by the victim of the burglary, was circulated over their radios.
PC Harper was the operator in an unmarked police BMW that formed part of the Thames Valley Police pro-active roads policing unit.
As the police BMW that PC Harper was travelling in searched for the suspects, a Seat Toledo being driven by Long came head-to-head with PC Harper and PC Shaw in a single-lane country road.
PC Harper exited his vehicle in an attempted to detain Jessie Cole, who was riding the quad bike.
Long, Bowers and Cole | Custody Images – Credit: Thames Valley Police
By the time PC Harper exited the vehicle, Cole was running towards the Toledo that had mounted a grass verge and driven around the unmarked police BMW that had activated its blue lights.
Cole jumped into the Toledo (that was now bumper-to-bumper with the police BMW), and it sped off at which point a crane strap that was being used to tow the stolen quad bike got caught on PC Harper’s ankle.
PC Harper was then dragged for more than a mile at an average speed of 42.5 mph until he eventually became free from the strop.
Long and his accomplices, Cole and Bowers, left the officer for dead at the road and he was found just a few minutes later by his colleagues, including PC Andrew Shaw, who tried desperately to save his life.
The Toledo that dragged PC Harper to his death
But his injuries ‘weren’t compatible with human life’, and he died at the roadside.
Newlywed PC Andrew Harper had been due to go on his honeymoon the week after his tragic death, having married his childhood sweetheart just four weeks before he was killed.
Long had pleaded guilty to manslaughter but denied murder. Cole and Albert had denied manslaughter.
The prosecution’s case was that the teenagers had gone out that night to commit theft – and nothing was going to stop them succeeding.
Earlier in the day Long, Cole and Bowers had scoped out a quad bike at a farm under renovation in Bradfield Southend, Berkshire, thinking no one would be there.
After being confronted by the farmer, they returned at nightfall disguised in balaclavas and armed with crowbars, a large axe and a hammer, to steal it.
With ten people arrested by Thames Valley Police, the initial challenge for the CPS was to establish who had been in the car responsible for PC Harper’s death.
Despite two of the killers discarding their mobiles and insisting they had been watching films that night, extensive phone analysis was able to place them exactly at the scene.
However, as the SEAT car contained three people, the question was whether each participant was equally guilty of killing PC Harper.
The CPS successfully argued that because the trio had acted together in stealing the bike and evading police, they were also equally responsible for PC Harper’s death, despite the fact only one of them was behind the wheel.
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.
“Our case quite simply was that the thieves were intent on causing serious harm to anyone who got in their way that August night and tragically this was what happened to PC Harper.
“It has been an emotional trial, and evidentially challenging, but I am pleased the jury has found all three culpable for PC Harper’s death.
“My thoughts remain with all of his family and his colleagues at Thames Valley Police.”
The trio hugged each other after they were found not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter.
Long, Bowers and Cole had ‘laughed and joked with each other’ throughout the trial. When Long was charged with murder, he said that he ‘didn’t give a f***’.
Jurors, who were visibly shocked at the violent nature of PC Harper’s death, have been offered counselling throughout the trial.
The family of PC Harper cheered as the verdict was announced, but Lissie, PC Harper’s wife, sobbed in the well of the court.
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Superintendent Stuart Blaik of the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Unit, said:
“Today Long, Bowers and Cole have been convicted of the manslaughter of our colleague PC Andrew Harper.
“We respect the jury’s decision to find the three defendants not guilty of the murder of PC Harper. We appreciate that the jurors must be sure that the prosecution has proved guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
“No matter what the verdicts, there would have been no sense of victory.
“It was always going to be an immense challenge to bring this case to court, and in doing so was an achievement in itself.
“This has been a hugely complicated investigation in which we seized 2,753 exhibits, took 1,250 statements and visited more than 1,000 homes during house to house enquiries.
“It was extremely challenging to determine our suspects but once we had, we then had to establish who was driving and who the passengers were. It is thanks to this work that we were able to prove beyond a doubt that Long, Bowers and Cole were all in the Seat Toledo that night. The strength of the evidence against them meant that they had to admit their involvement in this offence before the trial even started.
“Hundreds of our officers and staff as well as colleagues from across the country and the Crown Prosecution Service worked diligently to discover the truth.
“I want to thank everyone who worked on this investigation. Without their hard work it would not have been possible to bring this case to court and convict Henry Long, Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole of manslaughter, and all the defendants of conspiracy to steal.
“I would like to draw particular attention to the incredible bravery shown by PC Harper’s family throughout this entire process. Understandably, there has been a huge amount of media attention on this case since PC Harper’s death, and much of his trial has been played out in the public eye.
“This must have been unimaginably distressing for his family at times, but they have shown strength, dignity and resilience throughout. I would like to thank them for this, and for the extraordinary support they have shown to our investigation.
“PC Andrew Harper was a brave, young, dedicated police officer who was killed 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.”
Long, Bowers and Cole are due to be sentenced next Friday (31st July). The maximum sentence a judge can impose for manslaughter is imprisonment for life
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PC Andrew Harper | Born 22nd March 1991 – died 15th August 2019 | #RIP