Berkshire

PC Andrew Harper: No truth jurors pressured, says judge

Andrew Harper Image copyright FamilyHandout
Image caption PC Harper was killed while responding to a report of a quad bike being stolen

The judge in the case of three teenagers convicted of killing PC Andrew Harper has spoken about the "controversy" over the jury's decision to find them not guilty of murder.

Before passing sentence at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Edis addressed the court over questions about the verdicts.

It comes after the police officer's widow, Lissie Harper, called on the government to order a retrial amid fears jurors had come under "improper pressure".

Mr Justice Edis said: "I have been made aware that there has been some discussion about the trial and, in particular, the measures which were in place for the protection of the jury.

"It may be believed in some quarters that the jury was subject to some improper pressure. To the best of my knowledge and belief there is no truth in that at all."

Image copyright Thames Valley Police
Image caption Jessie Cole, Henry Long and Albert Bowers (L-R) had been convicted of killing PC Harper at the Old Bailey

As he jailed driver Henry Long for 16 years for manslaughter, and his accomplices Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole 13 years for the same offence, the judge said: "Nothing which I can do, or could have done if there had been a conviction for murder, can restore Andrew Harper to his loving wife and family, or to the public he served so well.

"His devastating loss in these terrible circumstances will follow his family forever and they have the profound sympathy of the court and the whole nation in their loss."

He added: "The victim personal statements are deeply moving and I have read them with care and listened intently to what was said in this courtroom."

Mrs Harper described to to the court how losing her husband, who was killed in the line of duty a month after their wedding day, had devastated her life. Below is her statement in full.

PC Andrew Harper's teenage killers jailed


Image copyright PA Media
Image caption PC Harper married his childhood sweetheart Lissie four weeks before his death

Lissie Harper's statement in full

This is my third attempt at writing a victim impact statement.

After many words of anguish, scriptures of love and testimonies of heartbreak, I sit at this task with an emptiness that I without pretence admit that in an attempt to describe what impact Andrew's death has had on me, I simply find myself in a lost and endless world of numb despair.

Perhaps the reason that this question in particular defeats me is because until and unless you have stood in my shoes, unless you have had the immense misfortune of losing a husband or a wife, a soul mate, true love or beloved partner whom you intended to be with until your dying day, then how is this grief and loss even possible to describe?

I have used every word in my vocabulary to describe the pain, torture and hopelessness that I feel, I have written poems and letters and messages of love and devastation over the indescribable trauma that I have been forced to endure these past eleven months.

I have screamed and cried and broken down in fractured defeat and yet when it is this moment that I am asked to explain my impacted life that the hollowness of loss truly appears.

My husband was brutally killed four weeks after our wedding day… What impact has this had on my life? Need I repeat the devastating details and the cruelty in which this occurred? Should I speak again of how we were robbed of our future? Of the plans that were stolen from us? Should I describe my torment over the children that will never come to be? Or like so many people are these heartbreaking details etched into your mind in the shattering way that they will forever remain in mine?

Four weeks was all I had to call him my husband, four weeks to be called his wife. My life often feels bleak, hopeless, irreparable. My desolate nights bring no rest, no time for reprieve from this utter turmoil. Every aspect of my life since Andrew was taken is bitterly different. Every moment of my life before Andrew was taken was imprinted with his love and his presence. A fact in which I alone can only truly understand.

So not only did these men take my true, beautiful love away from me, not only did they rob a brother, son, uncle and friend from all who love him, but they took our future too. They took more than one life away that day. They stole the person that I used to be, the happiness that we shared and the beautiful plans we had made together.

That night as I opened the door to the stranger in uniform before me, everything I had known in my life to be true was robbed away. Every ounce of beautiful peace, gone.

So in answer to the question of how Andrew's death has impacted me… well, you would be justified in your knowledge that I am without question a mere shadow of the person I once was, broken, distraught, beaten! An empty shell, void of the contented life I once loved.

Please do not let the sacrifice that he was forced and unknowingly made to give stand for nothing. He gave everything. A bitter reality that I must face and endure for the rest of my life, every second, every minute, every day.

Whatever is decided today in these courts… it will never bring Andrew back. Andrew will never grace us with his smile, his compassion and his selfless generosity and love as he used to do.

I will spend every day of the rest of my life with a hollowness that will never ever be filled. An indescribable reality that no amount of words will ever fully reveal. Yet again, I search around for the words to express my heartbreak, yet each description of grief appears inadequate and incomplete.


Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Deborah Adlam was in court to hear the sentencing

Prosecutor Jonathan Polnay also read a victim impact statement from Deborah Adlam, PC Harper's mother.

She described her son as a "good man, a brave, caring person, funny and uplifting", who would be missed daily and "loved forever".

She said: "I haven't been able to work for fear of breaking down, my mind just isn't in the right place, my anxiety is overpowering.

"I hardly sleep... I have no motivation or even daily routine - chores or cooking a meal, it just feels pointless now.

"I have sat in the mortuary of my son's covered body, too damaged for me to see.

"He will never get to be called 'daddy' or hold his own child - we imagined this was not too far away in the future."

'Lies and deceit'

Det Supt Stuart Blaik said the defendants made a "conscious decision" not to assist police and their family and friends had tried to "frustrate" the investigation.

He said the defendants's associates "attempted to give false alibis", and clothing and phones were "discarded and hidden" from the travellers' site in an attempt to disrupt his team's work.

Long, Bowers and Cole had shown "no remorse for what happened that evening at any stage", he said.

"Their lies and deceit have been exposed in this trial," he said.

Image copyright Thames Valley Police
Image caption PC Andrew Harper died after his ankles became entangled in a tow strap attached to a getaway car

Det Supt Blaik said: "The gravity and the scale of the case was beyond anything I have ever had to deal with before."

The case would "live with me for the rest of my life", he said.

He said only the defendants would "know" what they saw, heard and what was said in the car as it dragged PC Harper to his death.

"Had they not been out stealing that night this wouldn't have happened," he said.

"Had they not decided to stop when they could have stopped, when they were caught red-handed, rather than just putting their hands up for a theft of quad bike, they made decisions to do something different and those decisions have caused the death of Andrew Harper."

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