Pc Andrew Harper trial adjourned after jurors self-isolate
A jury in the trial of three teenagers accused of murdering Pc Andrew Harper has been adjourned ‘with a heavy heart’ due to coronavirus concerns.
The Thames Valley Police officer, 28, was killed while attempting to apprehend quad bike thieves on August 15, last year. The newlywed’s foot became entangled in a tow rope attached to a Seat Toledo car and was dragged for more than a mile along country roads, jurors were told.
Colleagues desperately tried to save him, but the officer suffered catastrophic injuries and died at the scene near Sulhamstead, in Berkshire. The driver of the Seat, Henry Long, 18, and two 17-year-old boys are accused of killing the officer.
Mr Justice Edis discharged the jury on Monday at the Old Bailey in London, after three jurors went into self-isolation. Two female jurors were sent home last week, and a third woman told the court yesterday that her 91-year-old father had contracted the virus and she was self-isolating for 14 days.
The judge said a mother concerned for her three-year-old son had also taken similar precautions. He told the trial it cannot continue under the threat of losing another person who is essential to the proceedings.
Mr Justice Edis added: ‘I have taken this decision with a heavy heart because I am acutely conscious of the need of those who loved PC Harper, who would have been 29 yesterday, for this process to come to a conclusion.
‘I am deeply sorry for them. I know also that the colleagues who dealt with the events of that terrible night and who have given evidence will also suffer additional distress because of what has happened.’
The judge set a review hearing on June 1 to arrange a date for the trial to start again. The defendants will remain custody.
Long and the two other teenagers, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have admitted conspiring to steal the quad bike but deny murder. Long, from Reading, has admitted to manslaughter, which his co-accused deny.
Pc Harper’s widow Lissie – who he had married just weeks before his death – and other family members, attended the trial which opened on March 10.
Over two weeks, the jury has viewed harrowing dash-cam footage and heard a string of eyewitness accounts, with one colleague describing how he at first mistook Pc Harper’s body for a deer carcass.
Pc Christopher Bushnell, who was in pursuit of the Seat, became emotional as he said: ‘I was not sure what it was. After a short period of time after I started to turn the corner, I saw what was being towed behind the vehicle rolling, arms and legs.
‘Just a bloody mess. I just assumed it was a deer.’
Pc Bushnell told the trial he was forced to veer off the road when the Seat, driven by Long, came ‘straight at’ him at one point.
The trial had been one of eight at the Old Bailey to continue last week despite more than a dozen high-profile trials being postponed, following measures to delay the spread of Covid-19.
Last Tuesday, it was announced that upcoming criminal trials lasting more than three days would be put off.
Today, further measures have been announced putting criminal trials on hold.