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PC Andrew Harper killed in ‘truly shocking circumstances’, court told

POLICE officer Andrew Harper was dragged for more than a mile along a road and died in ‘truly shocking circumstances’, a court has heard.

Prosecutor Brian Altman QC told the Old Bailey the alleged murder of the 28-year-old constable was ‘a completely senseless killing’.

PC Harper (above) died from multiple injuries when he was pulled along behind a car after responding to the reported theft of a quad bike near the village of Sulhamstead, Berkshire.

One witness thought he had seen a deer attached to the car before realising it was a man being dragged along, the jury heard.

Murder denials: An artist’s impression of Henry Long, left, escorted in the dock, with two shadowed-out 17-year-old defendants PICTURE: SWNS

Henry Long, 18, from Mortimer, Reading, and two 17-year-olds, who cannot be named for legal reasons, all deny murder.

Mr Altman told jurors: ‘Late at night, on Thursday, August 15, of last year, in Berkshire, 28-year-old Andrew Harper, a serving police constable of Thames Valley Police, was killed in truly shocking circumstances.

‘With his ankles caught in a strap that was trailing behind a car being driven at speed along a country lane, he was dragged for over a mile along the road surface, swung from side to side.’

He added: ‘When, at last, he became disentangled, he was left with the most awful injuries, from which he died there on the road, surrounded by colleagues who tried in vain to save him.’

The jury was told: ‘This was a completely senseless killing of a young police officer in the line of duty.’

Long has admitted manslaughter, which the younger boys deny, and all three have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal a quad bike.

Several members of PC Harper’s family were in court as the prosecution case opened.

Known as ‘Harps’ to his colleagues, he was part of Thames Valley’s Roads Policing Unit, and had been due to work a 10am-7pm shift that day.

He was still on duty with crewmate PC Andrew Shaw at 11.17pm, and they were in an unmarked BMW with emergency lights.

Mr Altman said: ‘Despite it being well beyond the end of their shift, because they were close and thought they could help, they responded to the call. It was a decision that was to cost Andrew Harper his life.’

Prosecutors claim the three defendants had planned the theft, visiting the home of owner Peter Wallis earlier that day and taking steps to avoid being caught by police.

Mr Altman said: ‘It is perfectly clear that all three had thought about and carefully planned this criminal enterprise. There was no point going to all this effort to steal a brand new, valuable quad bike only to be caught.

‘They had clearly reckoned with the risk they might be stopped by the police.

‘Not only did they wear gloves and disguise themselves with masks, but also they had disconnected all the rear light clusters to the car — brake, side and indicator lights — so that in any pursuit along dark country lanes they could disappear into the night, without trace.’

The court heard the officers were driving along a country lane, Lambdens Hill, on their way to the call when they met a Seat Toledo, driven by Long, coming the other way.

One of the 17-year-olds was in the passenger seat, and the other was riding the quad bike being towed behind the car, attached to the boot lid hinge with a strap that formed a loop.

As the cars met, the teenager on the quad bike dismounted, disconnected the strap and tried unsuccessfully to get into the Seat as Long began to drive.

PC Shaw turned the BMW’s emergency lights on, and the teenager ran to jump through the back passenger window of the Seat.

As PC Harper tried to stop him, the officer’s feet got caught in the strap and he was dragged along as Long drove off, reaching an average speed of 42.5mph, the court heard.

A motorist who had to slam on his brakes to avoid hitting the Seat as it crossed the A4 mistakenly thought the officer was an injured animal.

Mr Altman said: ‘At first he thought there was a bloodied deer attached to the car, but quickly realised it was a person, trapped by both ankles.’

PC Harper was barely alive when he was found by his crewmate, and had suffered ‘absolutely catastrophic, unsurvivable injuries’, the court heard. The case continues.