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Ten in custody as newlywed police officer killed in Berkshire

Pc Andrew Harper, 28, died while attending reports of a burglary near Sulhamstead on Thursday night.

A police officer lays a floral tribute at the scene (Ben Birchall/PA)
A police officer lays a floral tribute at the scene (Ben Birchall/PA)

By PA Reporters

Ten people remain in custody after a newlywed police officer was dragged along by a vehicle before he died.

Pc Andrew Harper, 28, died following a “serious incident” at about 11.30pm on Thursday near the A4 Bath Road, between Reading and Newbury, at the village of Sulhamstead in Berkshire.

Thames Valley Police said 10 boys and men aged between 13 and 30 have been arrested on suspicion of murder and are in custody at various police stations in the force area.

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Pc Andrew Harper and his wife, Lissie, celebrating their wedding four weeks ago (Mark Lord/PA)

Chief Constable John Campbell said Pc Harper was at the scene with a fellow officer and was out of his police car when the incident occurred, adding: “What we do know is Andrew had been dragged along by a vehicle.”

He said the suspects were detained within about an hour of the incident and officers are working “hard and diligently to find out what happened”.

A post-mortem examination is taking place to establish the cause of death.

One witness, who did not want to be named, told the Daily Mail that Pc Harper’s colleague was crouched over his body which was lying on the lane.

They added: “The officer’s crewmate was shouting, saying ‘stay with me, stay with me. Keep breathing’.”

Mr Campbell added that Pc Harper joined as a special constable in 2010 before becoming a police officer a year later, serving in the Roads Policing Proactive Unit based at Abingdon Police Station.

He added that the officer “only married four weeks ago”, and pictures show Pc Harper and his new wife Lissie celebrating their wedding at the award-winning stately venue Ardington House, a Georgian manor in Oxfordshire set in gardens and parkland.

Relatives described the day as a “dream wedding”.

Mr Campbell said Pc Harper was a “highly regarded, popular member of the team”, adding: “Everybody I’ve spoken to about Andrew talked about the incredible personality he was, what a fantastic police officer, and what a great friend and man he was, and he’ll be sorely missed by everybody.”

Mr Campbell said: “My thanks go to all those staff and officers who attended this incident, as well as our colleagues at the fire service and also the ambulance service for their professionalism and support at what you can imagine was obviously a distressing scene.”

He said the force’s flags are flying at half mast as a sign of respect “in honour and memory of Andrew”.

The incident took place at the crossroads of Ufton Lane and Lambdens Hill, near to the village of Sulhamstead – near Bucklebury where Carole and Michael Middleton, the mother and father of the Duchess of Cambridge, live.

On Friday, forensic investigators could be seen gathering items that lay on the road and taking photographs, and two white tents were erected.

Police were also seen searching the inside of a grey BMW that was at the scene, according to witnesses.

Pictures of the scene show a blood trail on the road leading across the junction.

Police officers laid two bunches of flowers inside the cordon, while other officers guarded the perimeter.

On Friday evening there was a police presence at a caravan site near Burghfield Common, not far from where the incident took place.

Pc Harper is the first officer to be killed on duty since March 2017, when unarmed Pc Keith Palmer was stabbed by Khalid Masood during the Westminster Bridge terror attack.

The incident comes after a police constable was run over by a suspected car thief in Birmingham last week.

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A police officer holds a floral tribute at the scene (Ben Birchall/PA)

The married 42-year-old traffic officer from West Midlands Police is facing “potentially life-changing” injuries, a senior officer told the PA news agency.

This came just days after Metropolitan Police constable Stuart Outten, 28, was left with head and hand injuries after challenging a motor offences suspect allegedly armed with a machete in Leyton, east London.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it a “mindless and brutal” crime, saying he was “shocked and appalled” by the attack.

Mr Johnson’s comments followed his pledge to hire 20,000 more police officers and an announcement of a range of investments to boost the criminal justice system. He also vowed to see violent offenders locked up for longer as a result of an “urgent review” of sentencing laws.

Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley, Matthew Barber, said the incident raises the issue of whether officers should be routinely armed.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Stephen Nolan, he said: “Undoubtedly this has raised the issue of arming police routinely. I think we need to await the outcome of this investigation, it’s not clear at the moment whether that would have made any difference in these circumstances anyway.

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Chief Constable John Campbell speaks to the media (Steve Parsons/PA)

“I think one of the great things about British policing is that officers aren’t routinely armed. That’s obviously a point for discussion going forward.

“Officers I talk to regularly have conflicting views about this, but the majority of officers I talk to feel that actually the unarmed police force that we have is a huge strength in this country.

“There’s issues of course about the use of Taser: a sort of half-way house between arming officers fully with firearms or not, but I don’t think today is the day for that sort of discussion.

“It’s a matter of condolences to Andrew Harper’s family, the force as a whole and police across the country who will feel this great loss of an officer.”

Witnesses or anyone with information are asked to call police on 101.

PA

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