A brave young police officer was killed “in the line of duty” in “truly shocking circumstances” as he attempted to stop three teenagers from stealing a quad bike, a trial has heard.
Pc Andrew Harper was dragged for more than a mile of winding country road, his uniform gradually stripped from his body, after his ankles got caught in a tow rope attached to the thieves’ car.
Henry Long, 19, drove at speed along the lane in Berkshire on the evening of August 15 last year, in such a fashion that the stricken officer was “swung side to side like a pendulum in an effort to dislodge him”, the Old Bailey heard.
Pc Harper eventually became disentangled but died from his injuries in the road.
Prosecutor Jonathan Laidlaw QC said: “Pc Harper was killed in truly shocking circumstances.
“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.
“Almost naked by this point, Pc Harper was left as you can imagine with the most appalling of injuries, from which he died there on the road.
“It was a senseless killing of a young police officer in the line of duty, a young man who was doing no more than his job.”
Long has admitted the manslaughter of 28-year-old Pc Harper, but has denied intending to kill him.
Going beyond the call of duty, as it were, would cost Andrew Harper his lifeProsecutor Jonathan Laidlaw QC
He is on trial for murder, along with Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, who were his passengers.
Jurors were told they had been trying to escape police, having been caught in the act of stealing a quad bike.
The court heard homeowner Peter Wallis had reported masked thieves making off with the valuable Honda quad bike from his house in Bradfield Southend, near Reading, at 11.17pm.
Pc Harper, known as Harps, and his colleague Pc Andrew Shaw, were in the area in an unmarked police BMW when they responded to the 999 call, more than four hours after their shift was due to end.
Mr Laidlaw 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.
“Going beyond the call of duty, as it were, would cost Andrew Harper his life.”
Cole, from Aldermaston, and Bowers and Long, both from Mortimer, Reading, have admitted conspiring to steal the quad bike but deny murder.
The court heard the defendants had made off from private property with an expensive Honda quad bike, secured to their Seat Toledo getaway car by a tow rope tied around its handlebars.
The court heard Pc Harper and his colleague Pc Andrew Shaw came face to face with the Seat, driven by Long, on Admoor Lane.
Mr Laidlaw said Pc Harper got out of the car to apprehend Cole, who disconnected the tow rope from the quad bike and dived into the Seat, which had manoeuvred around the police car to escape.
He said: “What of course Pc Harper had not seen, but each of these defendants would have known, was that the loop of strapping now on the ground and being dragged behind the Seat was still attached to the hinge of the boot lid of the vehicle.
“Tragically, at that very moment and still in the act of chasing Jessie Cole down, Pc Harper must have quite unwittingly stepped, with both feet, into the loop made of the strapping trailed behind the Seat.
“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 there was no evidence Bowers or Cole attempted to persuade Long to stop the vehicle, which reached average speeds of about 42.5 mph.
The prosecutor said Pc Shaw “quickly realised something was very wrong, turned the police car around and went in search of his colleague.
An eyewitness said they 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, Mr Laidlaw said.
Pc Shaw made the grim discovery a short time later.
Mr Laidlaw said: “Pc Harper was completely naked apart from his socks, the heavy boots he was wearing and some ripped shreds of the trousers of his police uniform, which remained attached to his body.
“He was barely alive, and Pc Harper died soon after where he lay, in Ufton Lane, in the company of fellow officers who had tried desperately to save him.”
The three defendants were arrested later at a nearby travellers’ site.
Jurors have been told the case is being re-tried after the original trial, which began in February, was abandoned due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, judge Mr Justice Edis described the victim as a “brave young” officer, but told jurors they must decide the case in a “fair-minded and clear-sighted” way, despite any thoughts of “admiration” for Pc Harper’s actions on the night he died.
The trial continues and is due to last up to five weeks.