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Andrew Harper: 'Thin blue line' ribbon tribute to PC

Blue ribbons in Wallingford
Image caption Wallingford - a town turning blue

The death of PC Andrew Harper - a newlywed killed in the line of duty - has been marked by memorial silences at football grounds and other public outpourings of support for police. But in his hometown a more understated form of tribute has taken hold.

At first glance it looks like any other day in the quaint, bustling market town of Wallingford.

But on closer inspection there are splashes of blue everywhere, with ribbon attached to shop fronts and in windows, doorways, and displays.

It is because this is a town mourning the loss of a fallen hero.

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Media captionThere are splashes of blue throughout the town

PC Harper, who grew up and lived in the Oxfordshire town, died while attending a reported break-in last week.

Since his death, homes and businesses in Wallingford have been using lengths of ribbon to slowly turn the town blue in his honour.

'A silent tribute'

Image caption Wallingford's Thin Blue Line of Respect and Appreciation started outside a plant nursery

It started when PC Harper's friend Andy Ledbury put up a blue ribbon outside his plant nursery.

Before he knew it, he was inundated with requests for ribbon so others could do the same.

"We wanted a silent tribute to Andrew," he said.

The ribbon is meant to represent a thin blue line - an emblem used to express support for police.

"It's been really emotional for people that knew him, but we didn't realise how much other people felt the same grief", Mr Ledbury said.

"And when we were first asked for the ribbon most people didn't realise Andrew and Lissie were quite as local as they are.

"They were touched by the case and by what they've read, and then it almost compounded it when they realised he was on our doorstep."

Before long, Mr Ledbury had run out of ribbon.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption PC Harper got married to his fiancée Lissie just four weeks ago

"What's been really heart-warming is everyone has wanted to do something," he said.

"It's just their way of showing support for Andrew, his family and also the police force.

"Nobody's been given a script... it just seemed to take hold."

'We all just come together'

Image caption Florist Keri Walker is having to order in extra blue ribbon

Local florist Keri Walker is giving the blue ribbon away for free after stepping in to help Mr Ledbury.

"It's such an amazing thing people are doing for the community in his memory," she said.

She is having to order extra stock because of the demand from emotional customers putting up ribbons outside their homes.

"It's very touching and heart-warming," she said.

"We are a tight community anyway… we all just come together.

"I'd like to think that's how most people are these days."

'We're so proud'

Image caption Karen Masters said there was a lot of "support and love" for PC Harper's family

Karen Masters, who works at a shop selling vintage-inspired crafts, said she put the ribbon up as a "sign of respect".

She added: "It was a shocking thing to happen, and he was a local lad.

"We're all so proud of what he went out to do, to look after the community... and obviously doing a job that he loved.

"I've found it very emotional to see the support around the town so I'm really hoping the family feel the support and love that we want to show them."

'He's one of us'

Image caption Tom Orpwood says Wallingford has a great sense of community

Butcher Tom Orpwood displayed the ribbon "to show communal spirit".

"I'm pretty sure I served PC Harper, but that's about as far as it went. It's more the fact that he's one of us. He came from Wallingford.

"We're a small town, a small community - if I didn't know him, somebody I know knows him. He's at least one step away from us and what happened to him was tragic.

"The blue ribbons are everywhere. We're all small retailers, we're not big chains. We rely on our local customers supporting us, we're all in it together.

"I'm not surprised at all that they've taken off.

"We've had a few elderly people go missing recently, they've got confused and wandered off. The entire town went out to look for them."

Image caption Ibrahim Elbir said PC Harper's death had shown the dangers police officer face in their daily work

Ibrahim Elbir said the ribbon on the door of his dry cleaners was "a great way of commemorating PC Harper".

"We're a small community and it's important to be as connected as possible.

"I think we should be proud as a community that we are supporting one another and are all together in this time of loss.

"It was really sad because these are people going to their day to day jobs, and coming across a situation like that proves how hard being a police officer is, and how much of a risk they take each day by putting on the uniform."

'Gives you a warm feeling'

Image caption Lisa Morgan said the people in Wallingford had been supporting each other

Optician Lisa Morgan grew up near to where PC Harper was killed, in Tilehurst.

"So it already hit home because it was local to where I used to live," she said.

"It's absolutely awful, and this is to show support and sympathy about how everyone must be feeling.

"You see the ribbons around and it's really nice. It gives you a warm feeling, but it's so sad."

For Mr Ledbury, the way blue ribbon has spread throughout his friend's hometown has shown how "so many people instantly want to show their respects for Andrew and Lissie and the whole family, but also for the police force".

"He was a very proud policeman, and knowing Andrew you'd know he'd have made an ideal police officer.

"He was very compassionate, very friendly, with a good sense of humour."

Image caption Wallingford has come together in the wake of PC Harper's death

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