PC ANDREW Harper’s widow wept as three teen thugs were today cleared of his brutal murder but found guilty of manslaughter.
Heartbroken Lissie Harper cried in the well of the Old Bailey while defendants Henry Long, 19, Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18, hugged each other to the sound of their cheering families as the verdicts were read out.
The three watched the verdict via videolink after the jury had deliberated for almost two days.
They are now facing substantially shorter jail sentences after being convicted of the lesser charge.
Long had earlier admitted manslaughter, while all three had denied murder.
It came after the court heard a car driven by Long at “breakneck speed” swung PC Harper “like a pendulum” along a country lane, as he apprehended the teen gang during a botched quad bike robbery near Reading, Berks.
The heartless thugs smirked and laughed as his horrific injuries were read out to jurors.
While Bowers was so bored during the trial he fell asleep as the prosecutor showed jurors video footage of the Thames Valley Police officer being dragged to his death.
PC Harper’s tearful widow Lissie was comforted by other family members in court as the verdicts were delivered.
Mr Justice Edis adjourned sentence until next Friday.
It can now be reported that Long had previously threatened to “ram” a police officer as he chatted with a police community support officer.
In the conversation in July 2018, ruled inadmissible during the trial, Long said: “You can’t touch me now ‘cos I’ve passed my driving test and if police try to stop me I will ram them.”
Ringleader of the teen gang Long was also revealed to be a thief who was taken out of school aged 12 by his father after he got into trouble with teachers.
Jurors were told how the teens had tried to steal the £10,000 bike from the home of Peter Wallis in remote Bradfield Southend, when they were apprehended by PC Harper.
The gang had cased the property earlier in the day and later returned masked and armed with an axe, crowbars and a length of pipe to use against anyone in their way.
PC Harper and his colleagues came across the gang driving towards them on narrow Admoor Lane.
Cole unhitched the bike and dived through a passenger window to escape the hero cop who had got out of the unmarked BMW police car.
But PC Harper’s ankles then got caught in the tow rope attached to the suspects’ getaway car as they drove off.
He was dragged along the stretch of road at 60mph by the SEAT in horrendous circumstances.
The court heard that the officer – who was responding to the reported theft four hours after the end of his shift on August 15 last year – would have been rendered unconscious almost immediately and was unable to free himself.
PC Harper’s body was completely naked apart from his socks when discovered by the officer’s horrified colleagues.
The officer was “barely alive” but died at the scene a short time later.
His tragic and agonising death was just four weeks after marrying sweetheart Lissie Beckett.
It was a senseless killing of a young police officer in the line of duty, a young man who was doing no more than his job
Prosecutor Jonathan Laidlaw QC told an earlier hearing: “PC Harper was killed in truly shocking circumstances.
“During the course of that high-speed journey, and until at last he became disentangled, his police uniform was quite literally ripped and stripped from his body.
“…PC Harper was left as you can imagine with the most appalling of injuries, from which he died there on the road.
“It was a senseless killing of a young police officer in the line of duty, a young man who was doing no more than his job.”
After stealing the bike, Long drove at up to 42mph for more than a mile on winding country lanes to evade arrest, before PC Harper finally became dislodged.
The court also heard how the killer driver had told his passengers to “put the music on” as PC Harper was dragged along the road.
Long told the court his passengers were shouting at him to “go this way, go that way, slow down”, and said: “I got annoyed because I’m trying to concentrate on getting away and people telling me how to drive, telling me what to do.
“I told them to shut the f*** up, let me drive, put the music on.”
Mr Scamardella asked: “Could you hear anything during that stretch of the journey being dragged behind you?”
Long denied that he’d heard or noticed anything.
But within hours of PC Harper’s death the young driver and his two passengers were arrested at a nearby traveller camp, the jury were told.
Long initially denied involvement in the incident and told police in a prepared statement that he had been watching The Goonies and Fast And Furious DVDs.
Jurors heard that he told detectives: “Look at me. Do I look like a murderer?”
Later, on September 18, when Long was charged with murder and conspiracy to steal, he said: “I don’t give a f*** about any of this.”
But during the trial Long finally admitted he had killed the police officer and said it made him feel “disgraceful”.
Defence barrister Rossano Scamardella QC said: “You pleaded guilty to manslaughter – why?
Long replied: “Because I accept that I killed him from what I was doing, the way I was driving.”
The lawyer asked: “How do you feel?” The defendant said: “Disgraceful.”
Long told jurors he could not sleep and thought about PC Harper’s family.
Detective Superintendent Stuart Blaik said the defendants had shown no remorse or helped police piece together what happened during the investigation.
Long pleaded guilty to PC Harper’s manslaughter not because it was “the right thing to do” but because of “overwhelming evidence”, he explained.
Mr Blaik added: “They had every opportunity to do that and it was a conscious decision by them not to assist police from the very outset, all the way through, and even during the trial.”