Pc Andrew Harper 'killed in truly shocking circumstances' after being dragged behind car for a mile, court told

Will Taylor
News Reporter
Court sketch of Henry Long, 19, Albert Bowers, 18, and Jessie Cole, 18, as they sit in the dock at the Old Bailey in London, and right, Pc Harper. (Elizabeth Cook/PA Images)

A police officer was killed in “truly shocking circumstances” after being dragged behind a car for more than a mile, a court has been told.

The new trial of three teenagers accused of killing Pc Andrew Harper began on Tuesday after the previous case saw jurors go into self-isolation due to the government’s coronavirus rules.

The officer was 28 when he died after becoming entangled in a tow rope as he tried to apprehend quad bike thieves in Berkshire in August, the court heard.

His colleagues tried to save him but he died at the scene near Sulhamstead.

Defendant Henry Long, 19, of Mortimer, Reading, has admitted manslaughter but denies murder.

Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, now 18, could not previously named as they were below age but jurors were told they were in the same vehicle.

Cole, from Aldermaston, and Bowers, of Mortimer, both deny murder.

All three have admitted conspiring to steal a quad bike.

An aerial view of the scene at Ufton Lane, near Sulhamstead, Berkshire, where Pc Andrew Harper was killed. (PA Images)

Jurors at the Old Bailey were told that Pc Harper and colleague Pc Andrew Shaw had been due to finish their shift at 7pm on 15 August, but were still working at 11.15pm.

They responded to a report of a theft of a quad bike from a home in Bradfield Southend. The court was told the three defendants were the thieves.

“Despite it being well beyond the end of their shift, because they were close and because thought they could help, they responded to the call,” prosecutor Jonathan Laidlaw QC said.

“It was going beyond the call of duty, as it were, and it would cost Andrew Harper his life.”

Opening the new trial, Laidlaw said: “I’m afraid Pc Harper was killed in truly shocking circumstances.”

The court was told the three arrived at the property at 11.10pm, with Cole sitting on the towed quad bike and Long driving the car, a Seat Toledo, but they encountered the unmarked police car with Pc Harper and Pc Shaw.

Long mounted the verge to get around the police vehicle, which flashed its emergency lights, jurors heard.

Laidlaw said Cole removed a loop of strapping from the quad bike’s handlebars, which laid loose on the ground. Cole then tried to get into the Seat.

Pc Harper ran to intercept Cole, the court was told, and came close to grabbing him but Cole “dived” through one of the car’s windows.

Henry Long, 19, Albert Bowers, 18, and Jessie Cole, 18, as they sit in the dock at the Old Bailey in London. (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Long then drove off “at speed”, Laidlaw said, but Pc Harper must have stepped into the loop of strapping that was trailing behind the car, jurors heard.

“With his ankles caught in a strap that was trailing behind a car being driven along a country lane, he was dragged at speed for over a mile along the road surface, swung from side to side like a pendulum in an effort to dislodge him,” Laidlaw told the court.

“During the course of that high-speed journey, and until at last he became disentangled, his police uniform was quite literally ripped and stripped from his body.

“Henry Long sped off, Pc Harper was lassoed around his ankles by the loop of the strap.

“It will be obvious to you all that none of the defendants could possibly have intended that that should happen.

“But the prosecution case is that it must have been very quickly clear to Henry Long, who was after all at the wheel of the car, that the vehicle was now dragging somebody behind it.”

He said all three men should have realised what would happen and described Pc Harper’s death as a “virtual certainty”.

An eyewitness initially thought the Seat was towing “the carcass of a bloodied deer”, but quickly he realised it was a person trapped by both ankles being dragged around the road and striking the kerb, Laidlaw told jurors.

Pc Shaw realised he could no longer see Pc Harper, and only found his stab vest in the road, having been torn off. He later found Pc Harper barely alive, with officers attending unable to save him.

The three defendants were arrested later at a nearby travellers’ site.

The trial continues.