Three teens guilty of manslaughter of PC Harper
Three teenagers have been found guilty of manslaughter over the death of Thames Valley Police Constable Andrew Harper.
Driver Henry Long, 19 and passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, were cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter.
PC Harper and his crewmate PC Andrew Shaw were on duty in an unmarked BMW, driving along the M4 when they received a report of the burglary in progress at a property in Standford Dingley.
They met Long, Bowers and Cole head on in Admoor Lane, an unlit single track road, at 11.28pm. There was a short stand-off at this point.
Long was driving the offending vehicle, a Seat Toledo, with Bowers in the passenger seat. Cole was riding behind on the quadbike, which the car was pulling along using a crane strap.
When the vehicles were head on and stopped, Cole unhitched the quadbike’s handlebars from the crane strap, leaving the strap attached to the Seat with the boot still open.
Cole then alighted from the quadbike, ran along the driver’s side of the police car and entered the Seat through the front passenger window.
As this was happening, PC Harper got out of the police car to apprehend Cole.
Inadvertently, PC Harper ran into the trailing loop of the crane strap which was on the road, and as Long accelerated away, PC Harper’s feet and ankles became caught in it. The Seat was then driven away, towing PC Harper behind it for more than a mile at an average speed of more than 40mph.
Long, from Mortimer, Reading, the driver of the Seat, had told jurors he felt “disgraceful” over PC Harper’s death but said he did not know the officer was attached to the vehicle.
Cole, of Paices Hill near Reading, and Bowers, of Moat Close, Bramley, both denied seeing PC Harper during the incident.
The jury had deliberated for 12 hours and 22 minutes before delivering its verdicts, following a four week trial at the Old Bailey.
Long, Bowers and Cole had already all pleaded guilty to another offence, conspiracy to steal a quadbike.
Thomas King, aged 21, of Strawberry Fields, Bramley, Hampshire, also previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal a quadbike. He was not directly involved in the incident which led to PC Harper’s death.
The four defendants will be sentenced at the same court on 31 July.
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.”
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.”
“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.”