The trial for the killing of PC Andrew Harper has been referred to the Attorney General over possible jury tampering after three laughing teenagers were found guilty of manslaughter rather than murder for the death of Police Constable Harper, who was dragged behind the youths’ car for over a mile.
On Friday, Henry Long (19), Albert Bowers (18), and Jessie Cole (18) — all members of the local Traveller “gypsy” community — were all found not guilty of the murder of PC Harper, who was 28 at the time of his death. Harper died after his ankles were caught in a tow rope attached to the back of the car which was driven by Long on Thursday, 15 August 2019.
“Career criminal” Long — the ringleader of the group — had already confessed to manslaughter, while Bowers and Cole were found guilty of manslaughter by a jury. The guilty men will be sentenced next Friday. While they still face life sentences, it is expected that they will serve significantly less time behind bars than if they were convicted of murder.
The three young men were seen laughing and smirking throughout the trial of the brutal killing and one of the trio even fell asleep while details of how the police officer died were read out in court, according to The Telegraph.
After the verdict was read in the court, the presiding judge in the case, Mr Justice Edis, said that the first trial against the trio was postponed amid an alleged plot to intimidate members of the jury. The first trial was later abandoned altogether amid the Chinese coronavirus lockdown.
Justice Edis said that police had been tipped off “that an attempt is being considered by associates of the defendants to intimidate the jury”, after an unidentified member of the public gallery in the court was seen pointing at jurors.
It was also revealed that what was reported as a “overtly friendly” female juror was discharged just days before the conclusion of the second trial after mouthing “bye boys” and smiling at the three defendants.
“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,” Justice Edis said.
🚨 Three men convicted of the manslaughter of PC Andrew Harper 🚨
Three men who were in a vehicle that dragged PC Andrew Harper to his death in Berkshire have been convicted of his manslaughter.
Full story here: https://t.co/oiEp2wehqw
— Thames Valley Police (@ThamesVP) July 24, 2020
Following the announcement of the verdict, the former policing and justice minister, Mike Penning, said that he will be calling on Attorney General Suella Braverman to investigate the allegations of jury intimidation.
“We have to stand up for victims. That is our job as politicians if it [the verdict] was unduly lenient. The Attorney General should look at this case,” Mr Penning said.
“The one thing a jury should be is completely detached in any shape or form from the people that are being tried. Clearly, the judge had concerns otherwise he would not have discharged the juror,” Penning added.
Lord David Blunkett, a former Home Secretary, said that the verdict “throws considerable doubt on whether the whole of the jury should have been stood down and a retrial required. The verdict also raises issues that I think the law commission should lack in respect of the definition of murder because although it might not be premeditated, it was murder.
Former Conservative MP for Newbury, Richard Benyon — who lives close by to the scene of PC Harper’s killing — said: “To see this brutal killing result in such a verdict will cause incredulity in this part of Berkshire.”
Lissie Harper, wife of PC Andrew Harper, has given a statement at the Old Bailey following the trial’s conclusion. pic.twitter.com/338DautNeB
— Thames Valley Police (@ThamesVP) July 24, 2020
Prosecutor Jonathan Laidlaw QC told the jury that the three teens had three crowbars, a large axe, and a hammer, adding that they were clearly prepared to use force “if met with resistance”, while they attempted to steal a quad bike in Berkshire, England.
The court heard that PC Harper tried to stop the gang from stealing the quad bike, in the process, his ankles became trapped in a tow rope that hung behind their vehicle.
During the trial, Bowers, Long and Cole smirked as PC Harper’s body was described as similar to “deer carcass” being dragged through the country lanes.
The defence lawyers for the teens argued that the killing was a “freak event” and that it was not premeditated.
Just four weeks before his gruesome death, PC Harper married his childhood sweetheart, Lissie Harper, and was due to honeymoon in the Maldives before he was killed.
Outside the courthouse on Friday, Mrs Harper said: “Standing here, before all of you, I honestly thought I would be addressing you following a very different verdict… I am, for the second time in the space of one year, utterly shocked and appalled.
“The decisions made in these courts, by strangers, will never change the outcome that had already come to us. For many, many agonising months, we had hoped that justice would come in some way for Andrew,” Mrs Harper said sorrowfully.
Harper said that she will face her own “own life sentence” that will be “much more painful” than the sentence laid upon the killers of her late husband.
Officer Killed, 10 Arrests in Third Major Violent Attack on British Police in a Week https://t.co/7v6omFrZZg
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 16, 2019
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