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PC Andrew Harper’s mother is ‘utterly and bitterly disgusted’ his killers were cleared of murder

PC Andrew Harper’s mother has said she is ‘utterly and bitterly disgusted’ that his killers have been cleared of murder.

Debbie Adlam slammed the manslaughter convictions given to Henry Long, Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole.

She hit out at the ruling in a petition to ‘overturn a miscarriage of justice’, which has over 190,000 signatures so far.

PC Harper had tried to stop the three thieves from stealing a quad bike in Sulhamstead, Berkshire, in August last year.

The 28-year-old’s ankles were lassoed by a trailing loading strap from their car as the teenagers tried to escape.

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He was towed helplessly for over a mile behind the Seat Toledo as it reached speeds of 60mph, with driver Long swerving violently to try to release the officer.

Long, 19, and 18-year-olds Bowers and Cole hugged as they were convicted of manslaughter via videolink from HMP Belmarsh in London on Friday.

Debbie Adlam (pictured with her son) said she was ‘disgusted’ Henry Long, Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole did not get locked up for murder

Albert Bowers (left) and Jessie Cole (centre) leaving Reading Magistrates' Court on September 19, 2019

Albert Bowers (left) and Jessie Cole (centre) leaving Reading Magistrates’ Court on September 19, 2019

Mrs Adlam said she was 'utterly and bitterly disgusted with the outcome', which she said had 'let down' PC Harper

Mrs Adlam said she was ‘utterly and bitterly disgusted with the outcome’, which she said had ‘let down’ PC Harper

Mrs Adlam said she was ‘utterly and bitterly disgusted with the outcome’, which she said had ‘let down’ PC Harper.

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.

She wrote: ‘Andrew James Harper is my son. I am disgusted that he has been let down.

‘When they crossed the junction on A4 there’s no way they did not know he was there being thrown against the pavements.

‘Utterly and bitterly disgusted with the outcome. Andrew went to work to serve us all. And this is how he was repaid.’

Others agreed, with Suzanne Webb saying: ‘This is not justice. This is a joke.’ Peter Jones-Ward wrote: ‘How can deliberately dragging someone behind a vehicle not be murder?’

And Joseph Huitson added: ‘The lack of remorse shown and their callous attitude towards the grief stricken family. How can anyone cheer when someone has lost their life in such a way?’

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 his family asked the media not to report them.

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 his body had taken down the lane.

His widow was joined in court by his parents Phil Harper and Mrs 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.

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 Andrew Harper and his wife Lissie celebrating their wedding at Ardington House in Oxfordshire in summer 2019

PC Andrew Harper and his wife Lissie celebrating their wedding at Ardington House in Oxfordshire in summer 2019

Police mugshots of (left to right), driver Henry Long, 19, and his passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18

Police mugshots of (left to right), driver Henry Long, 19, and his passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18

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.

The court was told Long must have known 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 deer 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 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

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.

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 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.