Judge: ‘No truth’ that Pc Harper jury was pressured over murder charge

The judge in the trial of Pc Andrew Harper’s killers today said there was “no truth” in claims the jury was pressured into acquitting them of murder.

Henry Long, 19, was driving the car that dragged PC Harper to his death while Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, 18, were both passengers on the fateful night in August last year.

As the teenagers face sentence at the Old Bailey for manslaughter, Mr Justice Edis took the unusual step of speaking out about the way the case had been run, ending in all three defendants being cleared of murder.

Pc Harper’s widow, Lissie, has said she was “utterly shocked and appalled” by the verdicts, and has called for the government to intervene to force a murder retrial.

The judge was also forced during the case to impose extra security measures to protect the jurors.

“It may be believed in some quarters that the jury was subject to some improper pressure”, he said. “To the best of my knowledge and belief there is no truth in that at all.”

He said the jurors had been referred to in court by number rather than their names amid security fears.

“This was because the court was informed in March 2020 that the police held information that associates of the Defendants planned to follow members of the jury with intent to intimidate them”, he revealed this morning.

“This information was not corroborated and nothing at all untoward happened during the first trial.

“It was not disclosed to the parties, and has not been made public until now.

“It is not unusual that such information is received, but actual attempts to subvert the jury process are unusual.

“It is difficult to intimidate a whole jury and at least ten of this jury agreed that the murder charge had not been proved.”

The first trial of the case had to be aborted due to coronavirus, and the judge was forced to discharge a juror in the second trial after she was spotted waving to the defendants and saying “bye boys”.

“It had nothing to do with the information received prior to the first trial, or any other undisclosed information”, said the judge.

“A juror who has been subjected to some pressure and wishes to keep the fact secret is hardly likely to behave as she did.”

In her statement after the verdicts, Ms Harper said: “I now have my own life sentence to bear and believe me when I say it will be a lot more painful, soul destroying and painful journey than anyone facing a meagre number of years in prison will experience.”

The three killers are due to be sentenced on Friday over the August 15, 2019, when PC Harper interrupted them stealing a quad bike in Stanford Dingley, Berkshire, and was dragged to his death as they tried to flee.

All three admitted conspiracy to steal a quad bike. Long admitted manslaughter before the trial, Cole and Bowers were convicted of the charge by the jury.