Killing of Andrew Harper

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Andrew Harper
Born22 March 1991
Died15 August 2019(2019-08-15) (aged 28)
Known forDeath in the line of duty
Spouse(s)Lissie Harper (m. 2019)
Police career
CountryUnited Kingdom
DepartmentThames Valley Police
Service years2010–2019
RankPolice Constable

On 15 August 2019, 28-year-old police constable Andrew Harper was killed near Sulhamstead, Berkshire, England, whilst in the line of duty. Harper and a fellow officer were responding to a report of burglary, after which Harper was dragged behind a car causing his death. In July 2020, three teenage males were convicted of manslaughter and received sentences of 16 and 13 years' imprisonment.

Background[edit]

Andrew James Harper (born 22 March 1991)[1][2] grew up in Wallingford.[3] He was educated at The Henley College, where he showed an ambition for joining the police.[4]

Harper initially joined Thames Valley Police as a special constable in 2010 at the age of 19, before joining as a regular police constable in 2011.[3] He joined Thames Valley Police's road policing unit approximately six weeks before his death,[3][5] and was based at the force's Abingdon station.[6] On 18 July 2019, Harper married his partner of 13 years, Lissie (née Beckett).[7][8] They had been expecting to go on their honeymoon in mid-August.[9]

Incident[edit]

At 23:17 on 15 August 2019, Thames Valley Police received a 999 call from a property near Stanford Dingley, Berkshire, reporting a burglary-in-progress and theft of a quad bike.[10][11] Harper and fellow constable Andrew Shaw, who were finishing a surveillance shift in Reading,[5] responded to the call in their unmarked BMW police car.[3][11][12] At 23:28, Shaw and Harper happened upon a SEAT Toledo towing the stolen quad bike on Admoor Lane near Bradfield Southend. Harper, the passenger of the BMW, alighted the police vehicle and ran to the suspects' vehicle.[13] In doing so, he was caught in a strap[a] that had been used to tow the quad bike.[15] With the quad bike no longer attached, the suspects drove south-east on Lambden's Hill with Harper "lassoed" to the rear of the SEAT vehicle.[18] Shaw lost sight of the SEAT but in his pursuit found Harper's stab vest in the road.[13] The SEAT, with Harper still being dragged behind, arrived at the lane's junction with the A4 Bath Road—approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) from where the police came upon the suspects.[12][18] The SEAT crossed the A4 into Ufton Lane near Sulhamstead, and Harper became disentangled.[15] At 23:30, Shaw received a radio transmission from another responding officer which warned of "a body in the road"; Shaw replied that he believed the body was that of Harper.[5][13] Shaw arrived at the location to find another officer tending to Harper,[19] who was pronounced deceased by paramedics at 23:45.[11][15]

The SEAT was later found at Four Houses Corner travellers' site[20] near Burghfield Common[21] by a police helicopter using thermal imaging.[14][20]

Investigation and legal proceedings[edit]

At 00:50 on 16 August, police arrested an 18-year-old male and a 17-year-old male at the caravan site.[14] In a separate operation, a 20-year-old man from Pingewood was arrested on suspicion of murder.[22] A second 17-year-old male was also later arrested. Media reported that in total, 10 males aged between 13 and 30 had been arrested.[20] On 19 August, the 20-year-old was charged with murder.[22]

On 17 August, Thames Valley Police's Major Crimes Unit stated that a post mortem performed the previous day gave Harper's cause of death as "multiple injuries", which was congruent with their theory that he had been "caught between a vehicle and the road, and then dragged for a distance".[12] The post mortem also showed that Harper had sustained a "very severe" brain injury;[23] a pathologist stated that it was likely Harper lost consciousness when he fell to the ground.[2] Investigations showed that Harper was dragged 1 mile (1.6 km) in 91 seconds, with the defendants averaging 42.5 miles per hour (68.4 km/h).[2]

On 18 September, 18-year-old Henry Long and 17-year-olds Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole were charged with murder.[22] A fourth male, a 21-year-old from Basingstoke, was charged with conspiracy to steal a quad bike and subsequently pleaded guilty to the charge.[24][25] On 19 September, the Crown Prosecution Service said that they had discontinued the case against the 20-year-old.[24]

Trial[edit]

The murder trial, presided over by Mr. Justice Andrew Edis, began at the Old Bailey on 10 March 2020.[26] Bowers and Cole—both minors at the time of the offence and originally protected by Section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933—pleaded guilty conspiracy to steal a quad bike[15] but denied manslaughter.[27] Long, who was driving the SEAT,[11] had previously admitted manslaughter and conspiracy to steal a quad bike.[27] All three defendants denied murder.[14]

On 13 March, the court heard that all parties agreed that the police constable first to attend to Harper on the A4 did not strike him with his vehicle, contrary to early reports of the incident.[5][28][29]

The trial was temporarily suspended on 17 and 18 March as a member of the jury was unwell.[26] The trial, which was being held during the COVID-19 pandemic, resumed on 19 March after two of the jurors were discharged because they were self-isolating.[16] On 23 March, along with all other jury trials in England and Wales, the trial was suspended pending a review of operations amid the spread of COVID-19.[30] During this subsequently abandoned trial, Thames Valley Police said they had received intelligence suggesting possible jury intimidation.[31] The police later said that there was not a "shred of evidence" that the jury had been influenced.[31]

A retrial began on 23 June following changes to the UK's COVID-19 lockdown.[32] On 20 July, a juror was discharged after a prison officer reported that she had mouthed "bye boys" to the defendants in the courtroom.[33] The following day, the 11-person jury retired to deliberate.[34] On 24 July, the three defendants were cleared of murder. Long had pleaded guilty, and Bowers and Cole were found guilty of, manslaughter. Harper's widow had made a victim impact statement and later released an open letter, in which she implored Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel to allow a retrial seeking a murder verdict.[33]

On 31 July, Long was sentenced to 16 years and both Bowers and Cole to 13 years in prison.[35] In his summary, on the matter as to whether the jury had been subject to any improper pressure, Edis said "To the best of my knowledge and belief there is no truth in that at all".[36] Harper's MP, John Howell, had said that he intended to ask for a review of the sentences.[37] On 4 August, the Attorney General's Office confirmed that it had received a request to review the sentences under the unduly lenient sentence scheme.[37]

Legacy[edit]

Harper's funeral was held on 14 October 2019 at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Members of the public lined the streets to watch the funeral procession,[38] and over 800 people attended the service including Home Secretary Priti Patel and Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran—both of whom later paid respect to Harper in the House of Commons.[39]

On 27 October 2019, 5,000 motorcyclists took part in a "ride of respect" between RAF Benson and Abingdon Airfield.[8] On 28 January 2020, Harper was given a posthumous award by the Police Federation of England and Wales.[40] In June 2020, Thames Valley Police have named the newest horse of their mounted section "Harper" as a tribute.[41]

In August 2020, Harper's widow launched a campaign for a new law which would require life imprisonment for criminals whose actions result in the death of any police officer, firefighter, nurse, doctor, or paramedic. Separately, Harper's mother launched a campaign to require killers of police officers to receive minimum jail terms of 20 years.[42]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ The type of strap has been variously identified as either a crane strap,[14] a ratchet strap,[15] a "towing strap",[16] or a tow rope.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fort, Hugh (28 July 2020). "PC Harper's mum adds name to petition on 'miscarriage of justice'". Berkshire Live. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Dearden, Lizzie (24 July 2020). "'Brave and dedicated' PC Andrew Harper answered fatal call four hours after end of shift". The Independent. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d "Family hails 'hero' PC as police fall silent". BBC News. 23 August 2019. Archived from the original on 7 October 2019. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  4. ^ "College pays tribute to murdered officer". Henley Standard. 22 August 2019. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d Pennink, Emily; Hughes, Ian (13 March 2020). "PC Andrew Harper murder trial shown footage of search for police officer". Berkshire Live. Archived from the original on 17 March 2020. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  6. ^ Murphy, Simon (17 August 2019). "PC Andrew Harper murder inquiry: police search caravan site". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 26 March 2020. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  7. ^ Paterson, Fiona (30 October 2019). "The emotional message PC Harper's widow wrote after Ride of Respect". Berkshire Live. Archived from the original on 30 June 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  8. ^ a b "Widow thanks 5,000 bikers who joined PC's tribute". BBC News. 28 October 2019. Archived from the original on 28 March 2020. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  9. ^ Taylor, Rebecca (16 August 2019). "'So proud of him': Tributes to newlywed killed in the line of duty". Sky News. Archived from the original on 2 December 2019. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  10. ^ "PC murder trial hears quad bike owner's 999 call". BBC News. 12 March 2020. Archived from the original on 12 March 2020. Retrieved 12 March 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d Way, Fran (10 March 2020). "PC Harper dragged along more than a mile to his death, court hears". Reading Chronicle. Newsquest Media Group. Retrieved 12 March 2020.
  12. ^ a b c Thorne, Lucy (17 August 2019). "Police release PC Andrew Harper's cause of death". Berkshire Live. Archived from the original on 30 November 2019. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  13. ^ a b c "Dashcam footage from killed PC's car shown to jury". BBC News. 13 March 2020. Archived from the original on 13 March 2020. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  14. ^ a b c d "PC Andrew Harper's body seen 'tumbling' in road, court hears". The Guardian. 16 March 2020. Archived from the original on 16 March 2020. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  15. ^ a b c d e "Colleague 'could not recognise' killed PC". BBC News. 16 March 2020. Archived from the original on 16 March 2020. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  16. ^ a b "Self-isolating jurors discharged in PC death trial". BBC News. 19 March 2020. Archived from the original on 20 March 2020. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  17. ^ "Officer describes moment PC Andrew Harper was dragged by car". The Guardian. 13 March 2020. Archived from the original on 30 June 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  18. ^ a b "PC was 'dragged behind car for more than a mile'". BBC News. 10 March 2020. Archived from the original on 11 March 2020. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  19. ^ Davis, Margaret; Pennink, Emily (10 March 2020). "Police officer dragged behind car for more than a mile in 'completely senseless killing', court hears". The Independent. Archived from the original on 11 March 2020. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  20. ^ a b c Perrin, Isabella (17 August 2019). "PC Andrew Harper: Ten remain in custody as traveller site is raided". Reading Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2 October 2019. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  21. ^ Fort, Linda (14 October 2015). "Family of seven about to lose their home on traveller site gain a day's reprieve". Berkshire Live. Archived from the original on 17 August 2019. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  22. ^ a b c Grierson, Jamie (19 September 2019). "Charges dropped against man accused of PC Andrew Harper murder". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 27 September 2019. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  23. ^ "PC Harper murder trial: Officer died in 'shocking circumstances'". BBC News. 23 June 2020. Archived from the original on 23 June 2020. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  24. ^ a b "CPS further update in relation to the investigation into PC Harper's death | The Crown Prosecution Service". www.cps.gov.uk. Crown Prosecution Service. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  25. ^ Gayle, Damien (9 March 2020). "PC Andrew Harper murder trial: two admit plot to steal quad bike". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 10 March 2020. Retrieved 12 March 2020.
  26. ^ a b Way, Fran. "PC Andrew Harper murder trial on hold". Oxford Mail. Archived from the original on 19 March 2020. Retrieved 19 March 2020.
  27. ^ a b "PC murder accused teens admit bike theft plot". BBC News. 9 March 2020. Archived from the original on 10 March 2020. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  28. ^ "'Murdered' PC Andrew Harper was hit by police car". 17 August 2019. Archived from the original on 17 March 2020. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  29. ^ "Three teenagers charged with murder of PC Andrew Harper". The Guardian. 18 September 2019. Archived from the original on 17 March 2020. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  30. ^ Aldridge, James (23 March 2020). "PC Andrew Harper murder trial suspended". Berkshire Live. Archived from the original on 23 March 2020. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  31. ^ a b Evans, Martin (31 July 2020). "PC Harper: Three teenagers who dragged newly married officer to his death show no remorse as they are jailed". The Telegraph. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  32. ^ "PC Andrew Harper murder trial: Case of 'utmost importance', court told". BBC News. 22 June 2020. Archived from the original on 26 June 2020. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  33. ^ a b "PC Andrew Harper's widow writes to PM asking for retrial of killers". The Guardian. 29 July 2020. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  34. ^ "Jury retires in police officer murder trial". BBC News. 21 July 2020. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  35. ^ "PC Andrew Harper killing". The Guardian. 31 July 2020.
  36. ^ "PC Andrew Harper: No truth jurors pressured, says judge". BBC News. 31 July 2020. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  37. ^ a b "Bid to increase PC Harper's killers' sentences". BBC News. 4 August 2020. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  38. ^ "PC Andrew Harper: Hundreds of mourners attend funeral". BBC News. 14 October 2019. Archived from the original on 14 October 2019. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  39. ^ "Public Services". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 16 October 2019. col. 279–280.
  40. ^ Knight, Alice (29 January 2020). "Wife of fallen police officer accepts posthumous honour award in his memory". Reading Chronicle. Archived from the original on 26 March 2020. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  41. ^ "Police horse named Harper after killed officer". BBC News. 19 June 2020. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  42. ^ Grierson, Jamie (5 August 2020). "PC Andrew Harper's widow launches 'Andrew's Law' campaign". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 August 2020.