PC Andrew Harper's widow writes to PM to ask for murder retrial of his killers

Lissie Harper describes first hearing as 'atrociously below board' and highlights fears jurors were intimidated

Colin Drury
Wednesday 29 July 2020 13:48
Lissie Harper outside the Old Bailey
Lissie Harper outside the Old Bailey

The widow of the police officer dragged to his death by three teenage thugs driving a getaway car has written to the prime minister asking for a retrial.

Lissie Harper said it was “a despicable wrong” that Henry Long, Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole had been convicted of manslaughter – but cleared of murder.

The trio killed her husband PC Andrew Harper by driving for more for than a mile at speeds of 40mph after he had become lassoed in a tow strap attached to their vehicle.

They were fleeing after being approached by the officer while attempting to steal a quad bike late at night in Berkshire last August.

During their trial at the Old Bailey, jurors were told the 28-year-old was "swung from side to side like a pendulum" after Long sped off. Prosecutors said it was inconceivable the three could not have known their victim was caught in the strap as they continued to drive.

Now, in an open letter to Boris Johnson and home secretary Priti Patel posted to Facebook, Ms Harper has demanded the three thugs – two of who are 18 and one 19 – must be tried again.

She described the trial as “atrociously below board” and suggested jurors may have been intimidated by the families and friends of the defendants, who come from the traveller community and who camped outside court in large numbers every day.

She said: “I implore you to hear my words... and I ask with no expectations other than hope that you might help me to make these changes be considered, to ensure that Andrew is given the retrial that he unquestionably deserves and to see that the justice system in our country is the solid ethical foundation that it rightly should be. Not the joke that so many of us now view it to be."

During a chaotic trial, the judge was forced to order extra security following police intelligence that there had been juror interference.

One female juror was discharged a day before deliberations started after she was seen by a prison officer mouthing the words "bye boys" to the teenagers in the dock. Others were repeatedly seen to be smiling at the defendants.

Ms Harper added: ‘What is this country if it does not provide justice for the innocent? What does it say to the public and the police officers, old and new if every day they go out and put themselves at risk to detain these criminals just to witness them be treated so exceptionally lightly in the eyes of the law?”

The teenagers, themselves – who said PC Harper’s death was a “freak accident” – hugged each other after the verdicts were returned following more than 12 hours of deliberations.

They had been seen repeatedly laughing during the trial itself.

They are due to be sentenced on Friday.

Neither the Home Office or Prime Minister have yet responded to the open letter but Crown Prosecution Service guidelines say retrials may be sought if there is significant public interest - although they are only generally carried out if compelling new evidence emerges or it is proven that a jury was interfered with.

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