A court has heard how PC Andrew Harper was killed in what has been described as “truly shocking circumstances” when he was dragged behind a car for more than a mile.
The court was told how PC Harper was “swung from side to side like a pendulum” after his ankles became caught in a strap that was secured to a vehicle being driven by 19-year-old Henry Long.
The shocking incident happened in Berkshire in August 2019.
The Old Bailey heard how PC Harper’s uniform was “ripped and stripped from his body”.
Henry Long and his passengers, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, deny murder.
Prosecuting QC, Jonathan Laidlaw, told the court that PC Harper was left with the: “most appalling of injuries… and he died there on the road” after he became entangled in the tow rope.
“It was a senseless killing of a young police officer in the line of duty; a young man who was doing no more than his job”.
Mr Laidlaw told jurors that the defendants had been “seeking to evade arrest and to escape from the police” after being caught in the act of stealing a quad bike.
PC Harper, who had only been on the proactive Roads Policing Unit for a matter of weeks, was due to finish his shift at 19:00 hours on the evening that he died. But he had stayed on duty.
PC Harper and his colleague, PC Shaw, started their shift at 10:00 hours.
They were using an unmarked police BMW which was fitted with blue and white emergency lights. The police vehicle was also equipped with onboard cameras and recording equipment.
Peter Wallis had called 999 to report that his “new and valuable” quad bike had been stolen from the grounds of his house by “masked men”.
Mr Wallis also told 999 control room staff that the suspects had: “made off in a car, towing the quad bike behind them”.
PC Harper and PC Shaw were driving along the M4 heading back to their base in Abingdon to end their shift when the call came out.
Mr Laidlaw said: “Because they were close and thought they could help, they responded to the call. Going beyond the call of duty, as it were, would cost Andrew Harper his life”.
PC Harper and PC Shaw exited the M4 and sought to anticipate where the thieves’ car might be.
PC Shaw drove along a road called Lambdens Hill into Admoor Lane.
As they drove along the country road, they came upon the defendant’s car, which was being driven towards them.
Both Long (driver) and Bowers (front seat passenger) were in the SEAT Toledo. Attached to one of the hinges of the SEAT’s boot lid was a strap.
Mr Laidlaw explained: “once the thieves had managed to wheel the quad bike off [Mr Wallis’] property, they had put the other end of the strapping, the loop, over the handlebars of the quad bike.
“The SEAT was then driven off, towing the quad bike, with Jessie Cole riding it, so he could steer the quad bike as it freewheeled behind the car”.
The court was also told that the defendants, along with another male called Thomas King, had visited Mr Wallis’ address earlier on in the day to try and steal the quad bike but that they had been disturbed by Mr Wallis and so they drove off.
The vehicle registration mark of their vehicle had been covered during the daylight attempt at stealing the bike but was left uncovered during the night time raid.
When the defendants returned later on in the evening, Mr Laidlaw explained to the jury that the thieves had disconnected the rear lights of their vehicle “so that in any pursuit along the dark country lanes they could literally disappear into the night”.
Mr Laidlaw then explained what happened after the unmarked police vehicle and SEAT Toledo met on the country road: “Jessie Cole removed the loop of strapping from the handlebars of the quad bike”.
Mr Laidlaw pointed out that, at this stage, “the defendants would not have been able to see into the BMW and identify the occupants in the front seats from their uniforms as police officers”.
The court heard how Jessie Cole tried getting into the rear nearside (passenger side) door of the SEAT car.
He failed to do so because Henry Long in the driving seat had started to drive off, mounting the verge, to drive around the police BMW.
Taking that route meant that it was the passenger side of the SEAT which was closest to the nearside of the police car, and to PC Harper, who was the front passenger.
It was at this moment that PC Shaw activated the police car’s blue and white emergency lights.
Mr Laidlaw said: “Switching on the blue and white emergency lights put beyond doubt (if there had been any) that the occupants of the BMW were police officers”.
Jessie Cole, having failed to get into the SEAT, and with the police car’s blue and white emergency lights now flashing, then ran along the offside (the driver’s side) of the police car towards his car which by now had rounded the police car.
The cars were now boot to boot.
Almost simultaneously, PC Harper left the police car and began to run to the rear of the BMW and towards the SEAT
Mr Laidlaw told the court: “Illuminated by the rear lights of the police car, as well as by the pulsating blue and white emergency lights, certainly, Jessie Cole and probably the driver and passenger in the SEAT could not have failed to have seen PC Harper (who was within feet of him) and to have realised he was a police officer in full uniform.
“Indeed, PC Harper very nearly grabbed him.
“But such was Cole’s desperation to flee with the others, he dived through one of the passenger side windows of the car, which was open on the side where Albert Bowers was sitting”.
With Jessie Cole now in the car, Henry Long floored the accelerator to make good their escape.
It was at this point that PC Harper’s feet became entangled in the strap that was now trailing behind the SEAT.
Mr Laidlaw explained to the court: “The quite terrible result was that as the driver, Henry Long, sped off, PC Harper was lassoed around his ankles by the loop of the strap.
“It will be obvious to you all that none of the defendants could possibly have intended that that should happen.
“But the prosecution case is that it must have been very quickly obvious to Henry Long, who was after all at the wheel of the car, that the vehicle was now dragging somebody.
“PC Harper stood over six feet tall and he weighed about 90kgs (just over 14 stone).
“And all three defendants – from what they had seen and the exchange of words which would have undoubtedly taken place between them – would have known it must be the police officer from the BMW who had become entangled in the strap.
“What or who else could this have been?” Mr Laidlaw added.
Mr Laidlaw continued: “That realisation should, of course, have led these young men to have stopped the car immediately.
“The consequences for the police officer, hopelessly trapped as he was, in continuing to speed off, would have been perfectly obvious to all three of them – the officer would very likely be killed.
“It would be a virtual certainty.
“How could he possibly survive if the car continued to be driven away?
“But that is what Henry Long did and there is certainly no evidence or any indication that either Albert Bowers or Jessie Cole was inclined to or made any attempt to persuade Henry Long to stop”.
The court heard how Long continued to drive “at speed” for the next mile-or-so.
Mr Laidlaw told that court that “he drove in a manner calculated to dislodge or shake the officer free from the strapping”.
“The three, effectively acting together as one, were determined to make good their escape at whatever the cost and regardless of the harm that anybody standing in their way may come to” said Mr Laidlaw.
Long’s average speed was 42.5 mph as they dragged PC Harper behind them.
Mr Laidlaw told the jury that “a deliberate attempt was made to dislodge him from the strap”.
The court heard how, after becoming dislodged from the strap, PC Harper died soon after where he lay in Ufton Lane in the company of fellow officers who had tried desperately to save him.
The court heard how the three defendants “travelled cross country towards a travellers’ site about four miles away, where they were to dump the car and to hide out”.
Long, from Mortimer, Reading, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but denies murder.
Cole, of Paices Hill near Reading, and Bowers, of Moat Close, Bramley, have all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal a quad bike.
PC Andrew Harper joined Thames Valley Police in 2010 as a special constable, before becoming a full-time regular officer in 2011.
PC Harper was part of the Proactive Roads Policing Team based at Abingdon and had joined that team three weeks before his death.
He had been a roads policing officer for three years.
PC Harper had been married to his long-term partner Lissie four weeks to the day before his death.
The couple had been looking forward to their honeymoon in the Maldives, which was a few weeks away on September 9.
The trial, expected to last five weeks, continues.
PC Andrew Harper
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