The killers of a police officer who was dragged to his death behind their getaway car have been jailed.
PC Andrew Harper died when he suffered catastrophic injuries as his ankles got caught in a strap attached to the car. Driver Henry Long was jailed for 16 years for his manslaughter, in Berkshire last August.
PC Harper’s widow Lissie said she was in “a lost and endless world” after her husband was killed in the line of duty, a month after their wedding day.
Long’s accomplices Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole received 13 years for the same offence of manslaughter. In a victim impact statement she read to the court, Mrs Harper said she had “screamed and cried and broken down in fractured defeat” in the wake of her husband’s death.
As he sentenced them at the Old Bailey the judge, Mr Justice Edis, described the killers as “young, unintelligent but professional criminals”.
Long, Bowers, and Cole had been previously cleared of murder, following a four-week trial that concluded last Friday. Jurors had heard PC Harper was dragged for more than a mile along country lanes, after he and a colleague responded to reports of a quad bike theft on 15 August. The officer became “lassoed” to the back of the killers’ Seat Toledo as he tried to apprehend Cole, who had unhitched the stolen quad bike from the car.
As PC Harper chased Cole, the 28-year-old from Wallingford, “unwittingly” stepped with both feet into the loop of a tow rope which was trailing behind the vehicle. The judge told the court: “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 said the defendants’ denials they did not know they were dragging anything behind the car were “clearly false” and he rejected the idea they had shown 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 the killers. “You did so because you have deliberately decided to expose any police officer that got in your way to a risk of death.”
In her statement, Mrs Harper said she had had only four weeks to call PC Harper “my husband. Four weeks to be called his wife”. “My life often feels bleak, hopeless, irreparable… I am without question a mere shadow of the person I once was, broken, distraught, beaten,” she continued.
PC Harper’s mother Deborah Adlam said the “family and I feel broken” “Can you imagine a loved one dying with such indignity?” she said. “I have sat in the mortuary of my son’s covered body, too damaged for me to see.”
Aimee Harper, the officer’s sister, said she had “faced hell by attending court” and “heard and seen things that have left me physically sick”.
During the trial prosecutors said the Abingdon-based roads policing officer was “swung from side to side like a pendulum” after Long sped off to escape the scene. The court heard the car travelled for more than a mile towards the A4 before PC Harper became detached and died in the road.
The prosecution’s case was that the defendants must have been aware the officer was being dragged behind the car and that they sought to cause him serious harm. The three all left school long before they were 16 and had a long history of stealing.
Long, from College Piece, Mortimer, Reading, pleaded guilty to manslaughter but denied murder saying he did not know PC Harper was attached to the vehicle. Bowers, of Moat Close, Bramley, and Cole, of Paices Hill near Reading, both admitted they were passengers, but denied ever seeing the police officer.