Three UK teens who dragged police officer Andrew Harper to his death on a rope behind their getaway car after a failed quad bike theft last year, have been sentenced to a total of 42 years in prison after a high-profile trial.

“You decided your freedom to commit crime was more important than [Harper’s] life,” the judge said, as he sentenced ringleader Henry Long, 19, to 16 years behind bars. His 18-year-old accomplices, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, were each sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Andrew Harper, a 28-year-old newlywed officer, had responded one evening last August to a call about a burglary in Berkshire, four hours after his shift had ended. When he confronted the teens in an effort to stop them, his feet became entangled in a tow rope hanging from the back of the Seat Toledo driven by Long.

“Andrew was such a good man. A brave and caring person, so funny and uplifting, whose actions have positively impacted many lives. I love and miss him dearly, daily and with every passing moment.”PC Harper’s Mother has written a tribute for her son.

The rope had been intended to help the teens steal an expensive quad bike in the Stanford Dingley area. The group dragged Harper down a Berkshire country lane for more than a mile, in an attempt to get away from the police and to avoid arrest. 

The judge in the case said Long was guilty of “truly terrifying driving,” so much so that another police driver could not safely reconstruct the journey.

Harper’s uniform was found strewn along the lane and he was pronounced dead at the scene when he was found. The teenagers called the tragedy a “freak” incident and denied that they had intended to kill the young officer.

The judge agreed that the teens drove on “not knowing or caring what it was they were dragging” but said they must have been aware that something was attached to the end of the rope.

At the Old Bailey where three teenagers are due to be sentenced for the manslaughter of PC Andrew Harper who died after being dragged along by a car in Berkshire last August. (Photo: Thames Valley Police) Jessie Cole, Henry Long and Albert Bowers (L-R)

All three were ordered to serve at least two thirds of their respective sentences before they could be released. He said the tragedy amounted to “as serious a case of manslaughter as it’s possible to envisage.”

Earlier, the three teenagers, all members of the Traveller community, were acquitted of murder and admitted to conspiracy to steal the bike. The three had left school before they turned 16 and had a long history of stealing. 

The tragic death led to a massive outpouring of public support for Harper. Football teams held moments of silence to honor him before matches and shop owners in his town decorated their windows with blue ribbons. Hundreds lined the streets to pay their respects on the day of his funeral.

Harper’s mother has called on PM Boris Johnson to intervene in the case and force a retrial for murder.

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