In August 2019, PC Andrew Harper was just 28 years old and almost one month in to his marriage to new wife Lissie, the love of his life and his partner for the previous 13 years. The pair were looking forward to going on their honeymoon together later that month and then enjoying the rest of their lives. But then unimaginable tragedy struck.
Just four weeks after his and Lissie’s wedding, Andrew was on shift as a Police Constable when he was called to investigate a robbery and never came home. After getting caught up in the tow rope of a getaway car, PC Harper was dragged for more than a mile at speeds of over 40 mph and died at the scene.
Within a month of their wedding, Lissie would find herself a widow and at the start of a long, heartbreaking fight for justice. In a new documentary for ITV which airs on Tuesday, March 15, we learn more about what happened that fateful night and follow Lissie as she campaigns for a new law to protect justice for emergency workers.
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What happened the night of PC Andrew Harper’s death?
Just after 11pm on August 15 2019, Thames Valley Police received a 999 call from a property in Berkshire reporting that a burglary was underway and also reporting the theft of a quad bike. PC Andrew Harper, and fellow Police Constable Andrew Shaw, were finishing their shift but responded to the call.
At 11.28pm, PC Shaw and PC Harper came across a car towing the stolen quad bike and PC Harper left the police vehicle and ran to the suspects’ vehicle. Tragically, in doing so, he got part of his body caught in the strap which had been used to tow the quad bike. And with the quad bike no longer attached, the suspects drove off, but with PC Harper “lassoed” to the rear of the vehicle.
PC Shaw lost sight of the vehicle but found PC Harper’s stab vest in the road. Eventually after around a mile, PC Harper was disentangled from the moving vehicle but was found in the road by another colleague where he was pronounced dead.
Lissie Harper, the widow of PC Andrew Harper, during an interview at the National Police Memorial on The Mall, London
What happened next?
In the new ITV documentary, Sir Trevor McDonald visits the scene of this horrific crime and meets the senior investigating officer, DCI Stuart Blaik, who details, along with footage from the night, the terrible events that occurred. Police body-cam footage reveals the moment the prime suspects were arrested at a traveller site in the early hours of the following morning..
Lissie Harper recalls to Sir Trevor the moment there was a knock at her front door in the middle of the night, and the news that would change her life forever. And also how in the immediate aftermath she had to deal with the death of her husband in the glare of the media spotlight.
28-year-old Pc Andrew Harper and his wife, Lissie
What happened to the occupants of the vehicle?
Three weeks after PC Harper’s death police charged three teenagers – Henry Long, 19, Albert Bowers, 18, and Jesse Cole, 18 – with murder. Lissie and other key witnesses talk us through the emotional highs and lows of the trial which took place at the Old Bailey.
The verdict, when it came, would not be the one the prosecution was looking for as the jury were not convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the defendants knew they were dragging PC Harper and they were convicted of the lesser crime of manslaughter rather than murder.
Trevor McDonald at the scene in Ufton Lane Sulhamstead, Berkshire where PC Andrew Harper died
(Image: Crackit Productions Ltd)
What is Harper’s Law?
In the documentary, Lissie reveals the crushing moment the three teenagers were convicted of manslaughter but not murder. Although they were jailed for a combined total of 42 years, the lack of a murder conviction and their apparent lack of remorse, including pictures of them joking outside the trial, pushed Lissie to take drastic action.
PC Harper’s killing led to the proposal of Harper’s Law, which would introduce a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment for anyone convicted of killing emergency workers. Finally, after months of pushing, Lissie had a meeting with the Home Secretary and the Justice Secretary, who confirmed that the Government supported the Law and wanted to attach it to an upcoming Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill.
Lissie speaks out
Get Reading reports that Lissie has posted a message on her Facebook page ahead of the documentary. It says: “At the beginning of 2021 I was approached with the idea of being part of a documentary to tell the story of my battle for justice after my husband was killed in 2019. I considered this for a long time but ultimately decided it was a way to help my Harper’s Law campaign to achieve change and justice.
“So after many full on months of filming, many days in which I wanted to throw in the towel, feeling drained from the pain you endure when telling your personal story of trauma, it is finally time for the show to air. I was honoured to work with legendary Sir Trevor McDonald, who was a true joy to meet and spend time with and I will never forget being interviewed by him.
“Myself and Andrew Fiddler [of TVP Federation] invested lots of our time into this campaign and he continued to support me even knowing that taking part in a documentary as well as trying to create a new law took everything I had. I will always be grateful for that.”
The Killing of PC Harper: A Widow’s Fight for Justice with air on Tuesday, March 15 on ITV at 9pm.