Three travellers hugged each other today as they were cleared of murdering a police officer by dragging him to his death behind their car – but were convicted of manslaughter.
PC Andrew Harper, 28, had tried to stop the thieves stealing a quad bike and his ankles were lassoed by the trailing loading strap as the teenagers tried to escape in Sulhamstead, Berkshire.
For over a mile he was towed helplessly behind the Seat Toledo by his feet as the car reached speeds of up to 60mph with driver Henry Long, 19, swerving violently to try and release the stricken officer.
Long and his two friends Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole, both 18, were all accused of murder but convicted only of manslaughter and were seen joyfully embracing each other via a videolink from HMP Belmarsh in London.
Their families cheered as the verdict was announced – but PC Harper’s wife Lissie sobbed in court. The three killers had laughed and joked with each other during the trial and when Long was charged he said he ‘didn’t give a f***.’
Meanwhile it can now be reported that the jury were given special protection by police because detectives believed associates of the defendants were planning to intimidate them.
PC Andrew Harper and his wife Lissie celebrating their wedding at Ardington House in Oxfordshire in summer 2019
Albert Bowers (left) and Jessie Cole (centre) leaving Reading Magistrates’ Court on September 19, 2019
Albert Bowers arriving at Reading Magistrates’ Court on September 19, 2019 for an appearance over PC Harper’s death
Police mugshots of (left to right), driver Henry Long, 19, and his passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18
PC Harper had married just four weeks before he was flayed alive by the surface of Admoor Lane and the obstacles at the side of it.
Parts of his body including his face were destroyed and the details of the opening of the trial were so terrible that his family took the unprecedented step of asking the media not to report them.
How jury was protected amid fears of intimidation – and one was dismissed after mouthing ‘Bye boys’ to the defendants
The PC Andrew Harper case was dogged by alleged attempts to ‘frustrate’ the investigation and fears over jury nobbling, it can now be reported.
Detectives quickly tracked down the car which dragged PC Harper to his death in Berkshire to the Four Houses Corner travellers’ site.
But the investigation was hampered by family and friends of the occupants, who were all said to have close ties to the site.
Thames Valley Police Detective Superintendent Stuart Blaik said: ‘A decision was taken very early on to arrest all the males on the site that night. While we were frustrated by family and friends, we have been able to work through that and establish exactly what happened and who was involved.’
Supporters of the teenagers – Henry Long, 19, Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole, both 18 – had crowded into the public gallery of the Old Bailey as the case got under way in March. But no sooner had it started, Mr Justice Edis brought the trial to a halt over an alleged potential plot to intimidate jurors.
An unidentified person in the public gallery overlooking the courtroom was seen pointing at jurors.
Defence barrister Timothy Raggatt QC dismissed the incident as ‘a touch oversensitive’.
In the absence of the jury, he said: ‘In the circumstances, someone could be pointing for all sorts of reasons. Take, for example, there appear to be a lot of ladies in this court.’
But Mr Justice Edis ordered extra security measures to protect the jury. Without divulging details, he said police had received information ‘that an attempt is being considered by associates of the defendants to intimidate the jury’.
The jury was provided with a private room, and anyone entering the public gallery was asked to provide proof of their identity. A third measure was kept secret.
On the day the nation went into lockdown, the original jury was discharged.
When the case returned for retrial in June, social distancing in court was introduced to combat the risk of Covid-19 and security was further stepped up.
Jurors were referred to by number rather than their name to be sworn in. And uniformed police were out in force during a jury visit to rural Berkshire.
Officers lined the narrow country roads as the jury viewed the spot where PC Harper was killed. A police drone buzzed overhead as detectives jump-started the defendants’ battered old Seat Toledo as the jury moved on.
With the end of the retrial in sight, fears for its integrity surfaced on July 20.
An overly friendly juror was seen by a prison officer to mouth ‘Bye boys’ to the defendants in the dock.
On being alerted to the incident, Mr Justice Edis said: ‘She must have been compelled by some strong motive to have behaved as she did in this court under the observation of so many. It was both overt and covert at the time, which is remarkable behaviour.’
The female juror was discharged just a day before the remaining 11 men and women began deliberating on their verdicts.
When the body was discovered by his colleagues after he had fallen away from the sling he was completely naked except for his socks.
A snaking trail of blood behind him marked the course of his body down the lane. His widow was joined in court by his parents Phil Harper and Debbie Adlam and his brother Sean.
Long admitted manslaughter but was acquitted of murder. Bowers and Cole were convicted of manslaughter after the jury deliberated for 12 hours and 22 minutes to decide.
Jurors who were visibly shocked by the details of the case had been offered counselling before the trial began.
All the police officers involved in the discovery of his body were also advised to seek help to deal with the trauma of the case.
When he was arrested at the Four Houses Corner travellers site in Ufton Nervet, Berkshire, Long claimed he had been watching a Fast and Furious DVD at the time of the killing.
He complained police were unfairly targeting travellers and said: ‘I don’t give a f*** about any of this,’ when he was charged.
Long, Bowers and Cole, spent most of their time chasing rabbits and hares with their lurcher dogs and scratched a living by burglary and theft.
They had spotted the Honda TRX500 quad bike at the home of Peter Wallis, near Cock Lane, in the village of Bradfield Southend, earlier on August 15 and returned at around 11pm to steal it.
All of them were wearing balaclavas and gloves and they had taped over the car’s number plate and disabled the rear lights.
The killers were armed with an axe, crowbars and a length of pipe to use against anyone who tried to stop them.
Mr Wallis called the police saw them taking the bike and hitching the handlebars to the back of the car with the sling.
Long drove off with Bowers in the passenger seat and Cole riding the bike.
PC Harper was in an unmarked BMW with PC Andrew Shaw and was due to finish his shift at 7pm.
The officers were on duty that night in the Reading area and were heading back to their base station at Abingdon when they heard of the incident on the radio and responded to the call.
It was a decision that was to cost PC Harper his life.
When they drove down Admoor Lane they came nose to nose with the Seat going the other way.
The travellers quickly realised it was a police car and Cole unhitched the bike and tried to get to the Seat as it rounded the police car to drive away.
PC Harper jumped out to try and stop Cole getting into the car but he managed to dive in through the passenger side window.
As the car sped away dragging the sling, PC Harper’s feet became entangled. Mercifully, he was likely to have been rendered unconscious almost immediately.
PC Shaw had no idea what had happened to his colleague and expected to find him further up the road. But as he reversed up the lane he found PC Harper’s shredded and bloodied stab vest lying in the road.
Long knew he was dragging the officer and with the music blaring and his friends screaming at him, he tried to free PC Harper by zig zagging along the lane
By the time the officer fell away from the car at the end of Ufton Lane his body was a ‘bloodied mess’
A police officer who saw the incident thought PC Harper’s body was a dear carcass.
The Seat sped away to the travellers site causing other road users to drive into the verge to avoid a collision.
It was tracked by a police helicopter and the travellers were arrested at the site.
Long, Bowers and Cole all admitted conspiracy to steal a quad bike and Long admitted manslaughter.
The Seat Toledo with tow rope and the police car in a similar position at the site of the meeting of the vehicles during the Old Bailey jury site visit to the scene in Sulhamstead on July 1
The stolen quad bike is pictured during the Old Bailey jury site visit to the scene in Sulhamstead on July 1, 2020
They insisted they had no idea that PC Harper was trapped behind the car but a macabre re-enactment of the incident with a mannequin showed they must have known the officer was being dragged to his death.
Fast and Furious loving driver: Illiterate hell-raiser, 19, with string of juvenile offences for violence and drunken disorder
Henry Long, 19
Unable to read or write Henry Long, 19, was taken out of school by his father after he got into trouble with teachers.
Aged 12 he followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and began thieving, he told the jury.
Specialising in stealing quad-bikes and machinery, Long carried with him tools for breaking into sheds, and snapping metal chains and padlocks.
The career thief first spotted the quad-bike and drove the getaway car which dragged PC Andrew Harper to his death. He had a reputation among travellers as a good driver able to steer vehicles at break-neck speeds.
With the help of Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole, both 18, he disguised his Seat Toledo by disabling the rear lights, covering the number plates with tape and removing any logos. Long was the ringleader, telling Bowers and Cole to ‘shut up’ and ‘turn the music up’ as he drove.
In cross examination Long came ‘perilously close’ to admitting he was enjoying the chase as it went on knowing PC Harper was being dragged behind him. He tried to convince jurors that, had he known the officer was behind him, he would have stopped and tried to save him.
While sat in the dock he laughed with Bowers and Cole as details of the horrific death were read out which reduced PC Harper’s widow to tears. At first he told the police: ‘I do not give a f*** about any of this’ when they arrested him for murder.
He lied and claimed he was watching Fast and Furious all night. But police managed to trace his mobile phone to the scene forcing him to change his story.
Throughout the trial he argued he could not hear or feel anything behind the car. Long has four convictions for five offences, all as a juvenile. He is convicted of two charges of battery, two counts of being drunk and disorderly and a further two offences of shop lifting.
During the trial Long, Bowers and Cole smirked and laughed as details of PC Harper’s horrific death were read to the jury.
It can now be reported that Long had previously threatened to ‘ram’ a police officer as he chatted with a police community support officer (PCSO).
In the conversation in July 2018, ruled inadmissible during the trial, Long said: ‘You can’t touch me now ‘cos I’ve passed my driving test and if police try to stop me I will ram them.’
Long and Bowers, both of Mortimer, Reading, and Cole, of Bramley, Hampshire, each denied murder and were acquitted.
They will be sentenced next Friday.
Thomas King, 21, of Bramley, earlier admitted conspiring to steal the quad bike.
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.’
She added: ‘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.’
It can also be reported a woman watching the PC Harper murder trial was barred from the Old Bailey over coronavirus fears before the lockdown.
The unnamed person was heard coughing repeatedly in the public gallery as the first trial was opened by prosecutor Brian Altman QC on March 10.
The heavily pregnant woman absented herself from court and the area was cleaned in a break in proceedings.
Mr Justice Edis highlighted concerns from security staff and said he would ‘err on the side of safety’ and bar the woman from returning to court.
Speaking in the absence of the jury, the senior judge said the woman was a heavy smoker and there was unlikely to be a need to panic.
After lunch, the woman was allowed back in after a visit to a pharmacist confirmed it was only a cough.
Court 16 of the Central Criminal Court was full to capacity at the start of the high-profile case of Long, Cole and Bowers.
Lawyers, reporters and members of PC Harper’s family packed into the well of the court with the defendants’ relatives sitting separately in the public gallery.
The jury was told that more journalists, who could not get seats in court, were watching proceedings from a video link to another courtroom in the building.
As the nation went into lockdown on March 23, the trial was abandoned.
Police searching the scene on August 17, 2019 where PC Harper died in the village of Sulhamstead in Berkshire
PC Andrew Harper (left) was dragged behind a car after responding to a reported quad bike theft last August in Berkshire. PC Harper’s widow Lissie Harper (right) during his funeral at Christ Church Cathedral in St Aldate’s, Oxford , on October 14, 2019
In June, a fresh jury was sworn in to hear the case in another courtroom which had been adapted for social distancing.
Accomplice with passion for blood-sport: Racist thug, 18, who posed with dead hares on Facebook and fell asleep during trial
Albert Bowers, 18
Albert Bowers, 18, has a keen interest in the blood sport hare coursing.
Photographs from his Facebook account show the teenager holding pictures up of dead hares killed by his sighthound
He had turned to waiting photographers and started to laugh following one of his first appearances at Reading Magistrates’ Court after the killing.
Even when PC Harper’s body was described as being like a ‘dear carcass’ Bowers, Long and Cole continued smirking in the dock.
His attention span lasted only forty minutes and at one stage he fell asleep in the trial when the prosecution were show footage of the officer being dragged to his death.
In evidence he said he could not read or write and had to be supported by an intermediary. He left school in year six and occasionally worked as a landscape gardener while supporting himself by stealing.
Jurors heard he and Long were close friends who often went out together looking for property to take. They both knew the nearby roads well and used this knowledge of the terrain to try and evade the police.
Bowers has three convictions for five offences while a juvenile. He has been convicted of one count of criminal damage, one charge of sexual assault by touching, one offence of possessing an offensive weapon, one conviction for battery and one for a racially aggravated public order offence.
Due to the delay, Mr Altman was no longer available and Jonathan Laidlaw QC stepped in to prosecute in the retrial.
Today, 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.’
Mr Blaik added: ‘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.
Police officers searching near the scene where Thames Valley Police officer PC Harper died on August 18, 2019
Mr Blaik said they showed no remorse and their friends and relatives sought to frustrate his investigation.
He vowed to PC Harper’s family to find out what happened after the 28-year-old was found mortally injured on a country lane in Berkshire.
Thomas King earlier admitted conspiring to steal a quad bike
But he said the killers took a ‘conscious decision’ not to assist police from the outset’ and officers ‘were being frustrated by family and friends’.
Mr Blaik said: ‘I did not have the pleasure of knowing Andrew Harper but a lot of my colleagues did know him.
‘We will give the public the same level of expertise in terms of an investigation like this, regardless of whether Andrew was a police officer or not.
‘The fact he was a police officer and one of our own of course, it’s paid a huge toll on all of us.
‘But I’m very proud of what we’ve done. It’s been an incredibly difficult investigation for a whole host of reasons.
‘But ultimately what I set out to do when I met the family very early on, I said I would try my very best for their sake and for Andrew’s to establish what happened that night.’
It was the defendants’ ‘criminality’ in stealing a quad bike that put them on course to meet PC Harper and his crewmate Pc Andrew Shaw, with ‘catastrophic consequences’.
Mr Blaik said: ‘Andrew and Pc Shaw were on their way home.
A minute’s silence takes place for PC Harper at the Thames Valley Police Training Centre in Sulhamstead on August 23, 2019
Police officers gathering to pay their respects at the scene in Sulhamstead, Berkshire, on August 20, 2019
‘They did not have to respond to this call for assistance from a member of the public.
Tree-cutter, 18, who left school only able to spell his name needed help from intermediary while he gave evidence at trial
Jessie Cole, 18
Jessie Cole, 18, claimed he had only recently met Bowers and Long.
He claimed he went out thieving with them and not on his own because he was scared.
Like the other two he cannot read or write and left school aged 14. He attended a college for boys with learning difficulties and by the time he dropped out he could just spell his name.
Since then he worked with his father as a tree-cutter in Reading, Basingstoke and the Isle of Wight earning up to £70 a day. In the weeks before the killing he worked with his father on the island before returning to live with his mother.
His parents had separated when he was 18-months-old. Cole said he was closer to his mother than his father. As with Bowers he was helped by an intermediary as he gave evidence.
Cole claimed he did not see PC Harper chasing him but dash-cam footage from the pursuing police car shows him turning towards the officer before he jumped through the Toledo window. He has no previous convictions.
‘But that’s not what we do. We are there to protect life and property.
‘Despite having worked a long shift already they responded to that, and tragically Andrew has paid the ultimate price for that.
‘But that’s what police officers do up and down the country, day in, day out.
‘We go towards trouble – we don’t run away from it.
‘I don’t think for one minute these three defendants set out to kill a police officer that night but there was a point when the police and the three of them came together and they made a decision and that decision has had catastrophic consequences.’
Mr Blaik described the investigation as the ‘most complex’ of his 28-year career.
‘It’s late at night, dark country lanes with not an awful lot to go on in the very early stages.
‘It’s been a huge investigation and it has taken up an incredible amount of resources and time over the last seven or eight months.
‘We located the vehicle on Four Houses Corner site within about 10 minutes of these dreadful events.
‘The challenge was always going to be identifying who was in the car at that particular time.
‘A decision was taken very early on to arrest all the males on the site that night.
‘While we were being frustrated by family and friends, we were able to work through that and establish exactly what happened and who was involved.’
Examination of mobile phones provided a breakthrough, forcing Henry Long, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers to admit they had gone out to steal a quad bike in the Seat vehicle the night PC Harper died.
Long pleaded guilty to PC Harper’s manslaughter not because it was ‘the right thing to do’ but because of ‘overwhelming evidence’, he said.
Mr Blaik said: ‘We went to a full reconstruction to try and replicate and re-enact those events as best we possibly could with the information we had.
‘The expert we employed was absolutely unequivocal in his conclusions. It was clear and obvious from the outset there was something attached to the back of the car.’
The defendants had shown no remorse or helped police piece together what happened, he said.
A police officer paying his respects at the scene near Ufton Lane in Sulhamstead, Berkshire, on August 20, 2019
Members of the public lining the High Street in Oxford to pay their respects as the funeral cortege for PC Harper makes its way to Christ Church Cathedral in St Aldate’s, Oxford, on October 14, 2019
‘They had every opportunity to do that and it was a conscious decision by them not to assist police from the very outset, all the way through, and even during the trial.’
Getaway driver Henry Long could have killed others, says prosecutor
The teenage getaway driver who killed Pc Andrew Harper could have claimed more lives with his dangerous driving, a senior prosecutor has said.
Henry Long, 19, was so proud of his ability to outrun the police that he even adopted the film Fast And Furious as his fake alibi, the Old Bailey heard.
Even an advanced police driver was unable to recreate the speeds the full-time thief reached along dark winding country lanes in Berkshire, without lights.
Senior Crown prosecutor Rebecca Waller said the dangerous driving which killed PC Harper on the night of August 15 last year could have cost more lives.
Speaking as Long and his passengers were convicted over the tragedy, she said: ‘There is no doubt that their mindset was to get away at whatever the cost and that included anyone they met on the route back that night.
‘You have to remember there were members of the public, not only PC Harper, who could have been in the road who could have encountered them, and travelling at those speeds over those narrow roads without lights, it is not impossible to imagine that other people could have been killed.’
A reconstruction of the incident proved ‘without a shadow of a doubt’ that Long and his passengers would have been aware of PC Harper’s plight, she said.
Ms Waller said: ‘The key piece of evidence for us was the reconstruction expert who created the scene with the same vehicle and a mannequin to replicate the height and weight of PC Harper.
‘He did a number of runs and over those runs he said without a shadow of a doubt the driver and passengers would have known within moments of PC Harper getting attached that they were dragging something behind the vehicle and it was that evidence that brought us to the point where we could consider joint charges of murder.
‘They had an option then. They could have stopped. And if they had stopped, potentially his life could have been saved but they were determined to get away at all costs. That cost was the life of Pc Andrew Harper.’
‘We have put strong evidence before the court to say they not only knew but they made a decision about his presence and that was to continue to drive knowing his life was at risk.’
Long admitted that he and his friends would go thieving ‘every night of the week’ and on the night of PC Harper’s death, he, Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole were ‘determined’ to snatch the quad bike, having failed earlier that day, the lawyer said.
Having successfully outrun the police, Long and Bowers tried to evade police by disposing of their mobile phones.
It took another 28 days to positively link them to the crime scene by mobile phone data, Ms Waller said. ‘It was the quality of the investigation that forced them to accept their presence at the scene.’
Ms Waller acknowledged the ‘incredible ordeal’ of PC Harper’s family, who have viewed footage of their loved one’s last moments in court.
She said: ‘We hope through the verdicts they will be able to come to terms with the tragic loss.
‘We put the very best evidence we can before the court and if the jury validate that decision by convictions then it will be of significance not only to the investigation team but the entire police force and the family that justice has been done.’
He said it was ‘hugely frustrating’ when the first trial was stopped due to the coronavirus lockdown, but added: ‘We are here.
‘We’ve got through the trial now and I’m delighted we are in a position where the family have not got to go through the ordeal another time.’
On the impact of the tragedy on PC Harper’s young widow, Mr Blaik said: ‘I don’t think you can ever imagine what Lissie has been through, all the family and all his close friends and colleagues.
‘It’s just absolutely devastating for them. This whole process of the court trial, having to relive what’s happened and listen to the grisly detail of how Andrew came to his death.
‘I can’t imagine what they have been through, what they are going through, and continue to go through.’
Meanwhile, police leaders have called for a change in the law to try to prevent officers like Andrew Harper being killed or injured during traffic stops.
The Police Federation, which represents more than 120,000 officers up to the rank of chief inspector in England and Wales, wants drivers to be legally obliged to get out of their car when they are stopped.
Tim Rogers, the organisation’s lead for pursuits and driver training, said: ‘Our view is that if you have had to stop a vehicle, then you should in circumstances that are relevant have a power to ask someone to get out of the car.
‘Having no power to have someone exit from a vehicle is a concern.
‘Society wants us to engage with people who are of interest or vehicles that drive errantly, and they also want us to deal with them effectively.
‘So it’s not right that we’re then put in that position of danger through dealing with an individual that we’ve got no power to get out of the car.’
Mr Harper died in horrific circumstances when he was caught in a crane strap dangling from the boot of a car as he tried to stop thieves making their escape in August last year.
In the same month another officer, Pc Gareth Phillips from West Midlands Police, also suffered life-changing injuries when he was run over by a suspected car thief in Birmingham.
Every week four officers from West Midlands alone are driven at by motorists who try to escape when stopped by police.
As the jury in the Harper case were deliberating their verdicts, a Metropolitan Police officer escaped serious injury when he was dragged 40 feet by a speeding car.
The soles of his shoes were torn off as he managed to roll free, suffering only grazes and bruises, in the incident in Southgate, north London.
Latest figures suggest that attacks on emergency services workers have risen by a quarter since last year, fuelled by coughing and spitting incidents related to coronavirus, unrest at protests and illegal raves.
Provisional data from all 43 forces in England and Wales showed a 24 per cent rise in the attacks in the four weeks to June 7 compared with the same period last year.
There are proposed plans to double the maximum sentence for assaulting an emergency services worker to two years.
Chairman of the Police Federation John Apter said: ‘What we see far too often is offenders who assault police officers or any emergency worker, who are then let off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, they’re literally putting two fingers up to the criminal justice system.
‘There’s got to be a deterrent, these are violent individuals. I support the increase but the increase in sentencing is worthless if it doesn’t go hand in hand with a complete review and overhaul of the sentencing guidelines.
‘At the moment it’s almost the exception that people go to prison, that should be turned around. The exception should be that you don’t go to prison.’
Man accused of murdering PC Harper was cleared after police found he had an ‘electronic alibi’
Jed Foster was arrested and charged with the murder of the police officer in August. But prosecutors at the Old Bailey in September said there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction
A man accused of the murder of Pc Andrew Harper had the case against him dropped after investigators established he had an ‘electronic alibi’.
On the evening of August 15 last year, while responding to the theft of a quad bike in Stanford Dingley, Berkshire, Pc Harper’s ankles became tangled in a tow rope attached to a car and he was dragged for more than a mile along country lanes.
Jed Foster was arrested and charged with the murder of the police officer in August.
But prosecutors at the Old Bailey in September said there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction and moved to terminate the case against Mr Foster.
A court order was initially made banning any reporting of the reason that the case against Mr Foster was dropped, but it has since been lifted.
Prosecutor Jonathan Polnay told the court in September that Mr Foster, who was 20 at the time, had been arrested near where the car used to drag Pc Harper was found.
He said that ‘highly incriminating’ texts from Mr Foster’s phone had talked about being in a car with helicopters overhead, but when quizzed by police he said he was trying to ‘wind his sister up’.
Mr Polnay added: ‘The defendant [Mr Foster] was arrested in vicinity of the car used to drag Pc Harper.
‘His telephone was seized, he declined to provide the pin code, police managed to gain access to his telephone and discovered that messages were highly incriminating.’
Mr Polnay said that Mr Foster had been charged by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) before a full file of evidence was available under the ‘threshold test’ that there had been ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect the person has committed the offence.
But following further investigation, it was discovered that Mr Foster’s phone had not been at the scene of the theft or the area where Pc Harper was killed, he said.
Jolene Hannington, the mother of Jed Foster, with his stepfather, name not given, at Reading Magistrates Court on August 20, 2019
Mr Polnay added: ‘The telephone was not at the scene of the theft and the area where Pc Harper was killed. There was an electronic alibi from the phone being used elsewhere.’
Mr Jonathan Polnay said: ‘The decision to charge Jed Foster was taken on the threshold test, the threshold test is applied when a full file of evidence is not available but one may have reasonable grounds to suspect the person has committed the offence.
‘A full file of evidence has been received from from the police and fully reviewed. The CPS has concluded that the full code test is not met and there is not a realistic prospect of conviction. Proceedings against Mr Foster cannot and should not be continued.’
Mr Polnay said that the prosecution was serving a discontinuance order in connection with Foster.
Justice Whipple said: ‘The prosecution have served a notice of discontinuance of their case against you. That means that you are no longer to be detained in custody.’
Andrew Harper: The loved-up ‘gentle giant’ killed on the front line
He was ‘the gentle giant with a heart of gold’.
The ‘country boy’ who loved his food.
The newlywed police officer who died in the line of duty – more than four hours after his shift was due to finish – because he had a hardwired determination to help and protect.
Andrew Harper and his childhood sweetheart Lissie should have been spending the end of summer 2019 on honeymoon in the Maldives.
Instead, the new Mrs Harper was left facing the rest of her life without her partner of 13 years, after he was killed while responding to an emergency call on August 15 – four weeks after the pair tied the knot.
Andrew Harper was born on March 22 1991, to parents Philip and Debbie, and grew up in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, a big brother to siblings Sean and Aimee.
Andrew Harper and Lissie should have been spending the end of summer 2019 on honeymoon in the Maldives
Mrs Harper was left facing the rest of her life without her partner of 13 years, after he was killed on August 15 last year
At the time of his death, PC Harper was raising money for children with cancer, setting an initial sponsorship target of £500 for his participation in a 20-mile obstacle course. Within weeks of his death, the total exceeded £300,000.
He joined Thames Valley Police as a 19-year-old in 2010, first as a special constable and then as a full-time regular officer the following year.
Judge criticises Prison Service after van breakdown keeps defendants from court
The senior judge in the Pc Andrew Harper murder trial criticised authorities for failing to bring the defendants to court after a prison van from top security Belmarsh jail broke down.
Mr Justice Edis QC spoke out on the third day that Henry Long, Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole were forced to attend the Old Bailey by video-link while the jury were in deliberation.
In the absence of the jury, he told the court that the prison van with four cells in it had broken down.
It meant a replacement of two prison vans each containing two cells were brought in but there was only one driver available, the court heard.
Mr Justice Edis said: ‘This is a lamentable state of affairs and not one which the court would ordinarily tolerate.
‘It’s for the court to direct whether a person in custody must be produced or not.
‘It’s the job of the Prison Service to ensure that the directions of the court are complied with and inadequate number of drivers is not acceptable as a reason for failure to produce defendants.
‘There must be more drivers.
‘To fail to produce a prisoner when the court has directed that the prisoner must be produced is in all likelihood unlawful.’
The judge said he would not delay the case but ordered the defendants must be produced for sentencing.
He was more than 6ft tall, weighed 14 stone, and had size 14 feet.
But his kind and selfless demeanour saw him described by his wife at his funeral service as ‘a gentle giant with a heart of gold’.
‘Our superman, our bodyguard, our light in the dark,’ Mrs Harper said in a tribute to her husband days after his death.
‘My God, we will miss you. Forever you will be remembered as the best of us.’
Together, the couple enjoyed spending time outdoors, going on long walks and bike rides, and exploring new places.
At the time of his death, PC Harper was raising money for children with cancer, setting an initial sponsorship target of £500 for his participation in a 20-mile obstacle course.
Within weeks of his death, the total exceeded £300,000.
Colleagues recalled PC Harper’s love of food, infectious smile and sense of humour.
His colleague, Pc Jordan Johnstone, told mourners at the 28-year-old’s funeral: ‘I remember Harps’ first day … He arrived in the office with a clean white hat, shiny boots and an incredible range of Tupperware.
‘We laughed, we joked and we never stopped smiling.’
But there was a serious side to PC Harper, demonstrated by him and his colleague deciding to respond to reports of a burglary in Bradfield Southend in Berkshire at 11.17pm on August 15 2019.
Prosecutor Jonathan Laidlaw told jurors that ‘despite it being well beyond the end of their shift, and because they were close and thought they could help’, the duo offered to attend the scene.
Mr Laidlaw described it as ‘going beyond the call of duty’.
It was to be PC Harper’s final case.
The depth of hurt caused by PC Harper’s death reverberated across Thames Valley Police, with officers forming an almost guard of honour as members of the jury visited the crime scene.
And so raw was the emotion for the family that jurors were not told about PC Harper’s status as a newlywed in case the weight of a widow’s grief was detrimental to the defendants.
Instead, members of PC Harper’s family watched on as three teenagers described their respective involvements in the death.
Timeline of events in tragic PC Andrew Harper case
Here is a timeline of events in the case of Pc Andrew Harper.
- August 15 2019, 4.50pm: Henry Long, Albert Bowers, Jessie Cole and Thomas King arrive at the home of Peter Wallis in Bradfield Southend, Berkshire, to steal his £10,000 quad bike. They are confronted by Mr Wallis and leave empty handed.
- 11.10pm: Long, Bowers and Cole return to Mr Wallis’s house and, over 15 minutes, steal his quad bike. It is attached to a Seat Toledo by a strap and ridden by Cole.
- 11.17pm: Mr Wallis makes a 999 call to report a theft in progress. He says: ‘I’ve got four masked men outside my house and they’ve got weapons.’ PC Harper and his crew mate Pc Andrew Shaw are nearby in a BMW car, having already finished their shift.
- 11.28.17: The officers get a first glimpse of the Seat headlights approaching their car in Admoor Lane. The vehicles stop, facing each other around 5m apart.
- 11.28.25: Long mounts the verge as he drives around the police car. Cole is on foot behind the Seat. Having unhitched the quad bike, he tries to get back in the Seat. Cole runs past the police car, pursued by PC Harper, and dives through the Seat passenger window, the Old Bailey is told.
- 11.28.46: PC Harper has almost reached the car and Cole but runs into the loop of the strapping trailing from the boot. He is dragged away as Long accelerates off, jurors are told. The whole incident takes around 30 seconds.
- 11.29.55: More than a minute after PC Harper’s disappearance, Pc Shaw stops to recover Pc Harper’s stab vest, which was in two parts in the road.
- 11.30.17: PC Harper’s body is found by Pc Christopher Bushnell in Ufton Lane. He has been dragged just over a mile for 91 seconds before he is dislodged the other side of the A4. It means Long has driven an average of 42.5mph, the court is told. Pc Bushnell alerts his colleague Pc Andy Kemp to the figure in the road and sets off in pursuit of the Seat.
- 11.31.40: Pc Shaw reaches the A4 and Ufton Lane, where he finds his colleague having followed a trail of road marks, blood and body matter. Meanwhile, Long heads towards Ufton Court but gets stuck behind a wedding coach and turns back, forcing Pc Bushnell to take evasive action to avoid a head-on collision, the court is told. The Seat is then driven at speed towards Four Houses Corner and Pc Bushnell loses sight of it, jurors hear.
- 11.30pm: The National Police Air Service (NPAS) helicopter is directed to the Four Houses Corner travellers’ site.
- 11.42pm: The NPAS helicopter reports seeing, using thermal imaging, the ‘very, very hot’ Seat on the site, with people standing around another car in an adjacent plot.
- 11.45pm: PC Harper is pronounced dead in the road where he was found.
- August 16 2019, early hours: The defendants are arrested. In all, 10 males at the caravan site are detained and mobile phones seized.
- August 19: One of the males, Jed Foster, 20, is charged with murder and the theft of a quad bike.
- September 12: By now, police have analysed mobile phone data placing Long, Cole and Bowers at the scene, and ruling out Foster, despite initial evidence suggesting he might have been involved.
- September 18: Long, Cole and Bowers are charged with murder.
- September 19: Charges against Mr Foster are dropped.
- October 14: PC Harper is laid to rest at a funeral at Christ Church Cathedral on St Aldate’s, Oxford.
- January 7 2020: Long pleads guilty to manslaughter. King, 21, from Basingstoke, admits conspiracy to steal a quad bike.
- March 9: Bowers and Cole plead guilty to conspiracy to steal the quad bike, which Long also already admitted.
- March 10: The case is opened against the three teenagers at the Old Bailey. They all deny murder.
- March 23: As the country goes into lockdown, Mr Justice Edis discharges the jury.
- June: A retrial gets under way at the Old Bailey under strict social distancing rules.
- July 1: Jurors visit the site in Berkshire where PC Harper was killed.
- July 24: The defendants are acquitted of murder but Bowers and Cole are found guilty of manslaughter.