This PC was killed in the line of duty just four weeks af­ter he wed. Could there be a cru­eller sym­bol of Wild West Bri­tain?

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Jemma Buck­ley, Michael Bedi­gan and Andy Dolan

FOUR weeks ago, PC An­drew Harper was pos­ing for pic­tures on his wed­ding day.

He cut the cake with new wife lissie next to a sign read­ing ‘Hap­pily ever Harper’. But yes­ter­day it emerged the 28-year-old of­fi­cer was the lat­est victim of Wild West Bri­tain when he was mown down and ‘dragged along by a ve­hi­cle’ while re­spond­ing to a bur­glary in Berk­shire.

ten peo­ple – in­clud­ing a boy of 13 – have been ar­rested af­ter what Prime Minister Boris John­son de­scribed as a ‘mind­less and bru­tal’ crime. PC Harper and his bride were due to go on honeymoon next week, but late on thurs­day night the cou­ple’s dreams were shat­tered in the cru­ellest fashion when the of­fi­cer lost his life in the line of duty.

A wit­ness said he heard an of­fi­cer yelling: ‘Stay with me, stay with me, keep breath­ing,’ as

PC Harper lay fa­tally in­jured in the road. The Times re­ported last night that the of­fi­cer had been hit by a Seat van and dragged for some dis­tance, and was then struck by a po­lice ve­hi­cle re­spond­ing to the in­ci­dent.

Last night, two miles from the crime scene, po­lice were search­ing a run­down trav­ellers’ site, strewn with lit­ter and chil­dren’s toys.

PC Harper’s death trig­gered a fresh debate over the level of se­ri­ous crime on Bri­tain’s streets. Only yes­ter­day, Richard Atkins QC, the chair­man of the Bar Coun­cil, warned that crim­i­nals were ‘go­ing about their busi­ness un­chal­lenged’.

MPs from all par­ties were united in their con­dem­na­tion of the mur­der, de­scrib­ing it as ‘sick­en­ing’ and say­ing po­lice of­fi­cers had been left ‘dan­ger­ously ex­posed’.

Home Sec­re­tary Priti Pa­tel, who de­clared last month that she wanted to see crim­i­nals ‘feel ter­ror’ on the streets, said she was ‘dev­as­tated and ap­palled’ by PC Harper’s mur­der.

Mr John­son, who has pledged to hire an­other 20,000 po­lice of­fi­cers to get a grip of the prob­lem, said he vi­o­lent ad­mit­ted was ‘shocked crime ‘we on are and our see­ing streets’. ap­palled’ too much and

de­scribed PC Harper’s the dev­as­tated of­fi­cer – a ‘highly fam­ily re­garded’ mem­ber of Thames Val­ley Po­lice – as ‘the loveli­est per­son that you will ever meet’.

PC Harper, who be­came a reg­u­lar of­fi­cer in 2011 af­ter join­ing as a spe­cial con­sta­ble a year ear­lier, had at­tended the re­ported breakin near the vil­lage of Sul­ham­stead with a col­league at 11.30pm on Thurs­day. PC Harper was in­jured on a lane just off the A4 Bath Road be­tween cross­roads Read­ing next to and the New­bury 12-bed­room – a Brae­burn Lodge care home. At an emo­tional press con­fer­ence, Chief Con­sta­ble John Camp­bell said of­fi­cers were work­ing ‘hard and dili­gently to find out what hap­pened’. He said: ‘What we do know is An­drew had been dragged along by a ve­hi­cle’, ad­ding that all ten suspects had been ar­rested within an hour of the in­ci­dent. A res­i­dent in nearby Burgh­field said a po­lice he­li­copter hov­ered over a trav­ellers’ site from mid­night un­til about 4am yes­ter­day. A man from Ufton Nervet, three miles from the mur­der scene, said the area was blighted by bur­glar­ies at­trib­uted to the camp. ‘As soon as I heard what had hap­pened, I knew they were likely to be in­volved,’ he said.

PC Harper mar­ried Lissie, also 28, in Ox­ford­shire on July 18 in the grounds of Ard­ing­ton House, a listed stately home built in 1720.

Mrs Harper posted wed­ding pic­tures on­line and said the cou­ple ‘could not have asked for more’. She added: ‘The sun was shin­ing and the venue was in­cred­i­ble.’

PC Harper’s un­cle Dale Shrimp­ton, 56, said: ‘We are dev­as­tated. He was the loveli­est per­son that you will ever meet. I can’t be­gin to tell you how we feel. He didn’t have a bad bone in his body.’

Met Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Sally Be­natar wrote on Twit­ter: ‘So sad to read this. PC Harper was the of­fi­cer in the case when my then hus­band was ar­rested for do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in 2016. He was on Thames Val­ley Re­sponse then.

‘He was brilliant and gave me the courage to take steps to change my life. I can’t thank him enough. He was a top of­fi­cer.’

PC Harper’s death comes af­ter PC Stu­art Out­ten was stabbed in the head in Ley­ton, east London, on Au­gust 8. Days later a 42-yearold West Mid­lands Po­lice of­fi­cer suf­fered se­ri­ous in­juries when he was run over with his own ve­hi­cle.

Mr John­son said: ‘The mur­der of PC An­drew Harper is a mind­less and bru­tal crime and ob­vi­ously all our thoughts are with his fam­ily, his friends and his col­leagues.

‘When I think of the brav­ery that PC An­drew Harper showed in in­ter­cept­ing those crim­i­nals, I think of the risks that the po­lice run ev­ery day to keep us safe.’

He added: ‘This is a very rare oc­cur­rence, it is an ab­so­lute tragedy that a po­lice of­fi­cer should lose his life in the course of his du­ties and of course we will do ev­ery­thing we can to keep our of­fi­cers safe.’

Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn said the death high­lighted the need for a boost to po­lice num­bers. He added: ‘Let’s just think for a mo­ment of the horror of it, but also for the need for more po­lice of­fi­cers to be able to re­spond to dis­or­der in our so­ci­ety.’

Home af­fairs com­mit­tee chair­man Yvette Cooper said: ‘Po­lice of­fi­cers like PC Harper demon­strate ex­traor­di­nary brav­ery ev­ery day, and his death is a tragic re­minder of the im­mense sac­ri­fices made to keep us safe.’

Tragic death: PC Harper with Lissie on their wed­ding day

Search: Po­lice at a trav­ellers’ camp near the mur­der scene

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