Having a cop at your door at 3 a.m. is rarely good news. When your husband is a cop himself and you have made a commitment to kissing him goodbye every day and suppressing the fearful voice in your head as you break up a late night "love you" text or a sleepy dawn. See you later, when he makes his way to work, that stranger in uniform is your worst nightmare.
Exactly a year ago, Lissie Harper, a beautiful young newlywed who was still waiting for her wedding video, had not yet had a honeymoon and whose ring still felt heavy, new and shiny on her finger, was awakened by a loud knock in the early hours of the morning their front door.
Confused by sleep, she opened the door and invited the officer in. 'He said there had been a road collision and when we sat down I asked if Andrew was okay. He said, "Andrew died".
I remember saying: are you sure? But we just got married. I realize that didn't make sense, but somehow it made it impossible in my head to believe what he was saying to me. & # 39;
But of course it made sense. Lissie, 29, and Andrew, 28, had only been married for four weeks. That should not happen.
Her husband, PC Andrew Harper, a Thames Valley Police Officer in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, was killed in the most barbaric way imaginable – dragged more than a mile on country roads by a fast-moving getaway car until his body did so was struck was no longer recognizable as human.
So horrific was the crime that the brave young officer shed many tears, even from those of us who never knew him.
A national outcry followed the verdicts, which were celebrated with oops, cheers, and pats on their backs by his savage murderers from the traveling community, as well as the shorter sentences imposed on them for the lesser manslaughter crime.
In her first harrowing interview, a year after her hero PC husband was dragged to his death by teenage thugs, Andrew Harper's widow, Lissie, shares her heartbreaking photo album and anger
First love: Lissie and Andrew, both 16 years old, the year she agreed to be his girlfriend (left) and 17 years old after going to college together (right)
Last picture: Andrew and Lissie at their best friend's wedding just four days before his death
To mark the first anniversary of Andrew's death today and to launch her campaign for Harper & # 39; s Law, which would mean an automatic life sentence for anyone who kills a police officer or other ambulance worker on duty, Lissie is speaking for the first time and exclusively the mail about the horror and grief she endured.
In the first of two emotional reports, she talks about the huge vacuum left on her 6ft 5in, funny, goofy, good-natured and caring husband, her baby sweetheart and the love of her life.
She also speaks of her determined determination to change the law, which means his killers will be eligible for parole in just a few years.
"By killing Andrew, a good, hardworking, honest, and loving man, they took such a precious life and sentenced me to life imprisonment without him," she says.
"For this to happen, it is clear that our judicial system, which is supposedly designed to protect us all and which Andrew dedicated his life to defense to the end, is broken." Remembrance services were held throughout the Berkshire Forces area yesterday to mark the anniversary of his death. A wreath was laid and a minute's silence was observed.
Andrew wanted to be a cop as long as Lissie knew him and joined the age of 19.
Albert Bowers (left) and Jessie Cole (right). Nineteen-year-old Henry Long – the ringleader who drove the Seat Toledo and who deliberately fell into his place when he dragged Andrew's body across the street – was sentenced to 16 years in prison for admitting manslaughter. His friends Bowers and Cole, both 18 years old, were sentenced to 13 years each for manslaughter, which they will initially serve in an institute for young offenders. None of them were found guilty of murder
19-year-old Henry Long was given 16 years, while Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18 years old, were sentenced to 13 years in prison for manslaughter
He had the right qualities, she says. & # 39; He was smart and always very proactive and protective as well as compassionate. He liked to help people. He also had a strong sense of right and wrong. & # 39;
Tall, dark and handsome, he was perfect for Lissie – and she had absolutely no doubt that he was the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. “Andrew and I grew up together and lost him. I feel like I've lost a whole part of myself.
“I miss everything about him – the hugs, the kisses, he comes in and shovels me up and gives me love. It's crippling. We had booked a honeymoon trip to the Maldives in September that I had to cancel and were planning to look for a baby when we returned.
"Andrew would have been a great father and having a family with him is one of the many things his killers have taken from me."
The raw pain Lissie still feels over everything she has lost is disturbing to witness. A tiny, fragile young woman – only 5 feet 3 inches and a childlike size 6 – you almost want to pick her up and protect her from further pain, just as her loving husband's bear would have done. "When I first learned how Andrew had died, all I could think of was, 'I'm not strong enough to handle this," she says, tears in her eyes. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Such special moments: Andrew got even closer to Lissie, both 19, when he moved in with her family
Lissie's apparent fragility is hidden behind an inner steel that has given her the remarkable power to present the laudation first at her beloved husband's funeral at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford and to read statements made to the world's media later last year.
To the appalled public who had followed details of the case, this calm, dignified young widow appeared to be the opposite of the lawless, morally empty murderers who scornfully mocked each other through legal proceedings.
Nineteen-year-old Henry Long – the ringleader who drove the Seat Toledo and who deliberately fell into his place when he dragged Andrew's body across the street – was sentenced to 16 years in prison for admitting manslaughter.
His friends Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18 years old, were sentenced to 13 years each for manslaughter, which they will initially serve in an institute for young offenders. All were found – not guilty – as the three claimed in their defense, despite widespread disbelief that a driver or passenger could not have known that the car they were in was pulling a man behind it.
If they behave in jail, they cannot serve more than half of these sentences before they are granted parole – a prospect Lissie fears.
Lissie described Andrew as "the nicest, nicest, most selfless person" after he was killed trying to stop a break-in
Andrew Harper and his wife Lissie
"It won't be long before they're out and they'll still be young," she says. “You will be able to get on with your life – a privilege you took from Andrew.
"The kind of life they have lived, committed crimes and given nothing back to society has been detrimental to everyone, and I have no doubt that once they are released they will go straight back to that lifestyle."
Lissie last spoke to Andrew at 10 p.m. the night he died, after leaving for work at 6 a.m. She had been delighted when he said they should spend some money putting together a website to display their online design business, and see this as further evidence of his trust in and support for her.
Lissie Harper, Pc Andrew Harper's widow, leaves the Old Bailey after being sentenced
She fell asleep soon after and was awakened a few hours later by that fateful knock on the front door. “At first I thought it was Andrew, maybe I locked him out or something, which has happened before.
When I looked out the window, I saw a man in police uniform and I thought Andrew might have come back with someone. . . that maybe he was there. & # 39;
When Lissie heard the terrible news, she remembered how she started hyperventilating and, afraid she might get sick, ran upstairs to the bathroom where she was lying on the floor sobbing in a towel.
Taking a deep breath before she can continue, she adds, "The cop came up to see if I was okay and I remember thinking," He has a job to do, he needs to know i'm fine so i'd better go downstairs & # 39;. & # 39;
The officer called her parents and while they were waiting for her to arrive, he said to Lissie, "Ten people have been taken into custody." "I was very confused because until then I had only assumed that Andrew was in a car accident on the way home," says Lissie.
I said what do you mean It's not murder, is it? & # 39; And he said, "Yeah, we think it was". It bothered me even more – it wasn't an accident, someone took Andrew's life. & # 39; You had terrible circumstances.
At around 10:30 p.m. on August 15, 2019 – more than four hours after the end of their shift – PC Harper and a colleague responded to a request on their police radio to go to Stanford Dingley, Berkshire, where a group of teenagers had been reported stolen from a quad.
Working late to keep the job going was just typical of Andrew, says Lissie, and a lot has happened.
"He wouldn't just have left the next shift without doing his part," she says.
As he tried to arrest the thieves, Andrew inadvertently kicked both feet into the loop of a tow rope attached to the back of the criminals' car and as they sped away he was shackled by his feet. It was pulled for more than a mile and swung back and forth like a pendulum on dirt roads towards the A4 before it was finally free.
His desperate colleague, who chased the vehicle in his unmarked BMW and discovered PC Harper's belongings, including his stab vest, on the way, found him dead on the street after suffering "catastrophic injuries".
PC Harper (pictured), a 28-year-old newlywed who was a traffic officer for the Thames Valley Police, died horribly on August 15 last year
While Lissie's family did their best to protect them from the terrifying details of Andrew's death, they were told that they could not see his body. It is said to be so badly mutilated that a witness thought it was a deer.
"Not seeing Andrew's body after he died made it even harder for me to believe he was gone," says Lissie. “But I sat next to his closed coffin in the chapel of rest and told him that I loved him, that everything would be fine and one day we would be together again.
"I asked if I could have his wedding ring because I wanted to wear it on a chain around my neck, but they couldn't find it."
To make up for this, her sister Kate, 31, had a heart charm on a gold bracelet that read "I Love you Lissie" in Andrew's handwriting, which was copied from the notes he wrote for his wedding speech just a month earlier had been held. on July 18th. The couple exchanged vows in front of 50 relatives and friends, followed by an evening reception for another 30 at an outdoor temple at Ardington House, a Georgian mansion at the foot of the North Wessex Downs in South Oxfordshire.
Lissie receiving a card from Andrew on the morning of the wedding that said, “Life is slippery. . . take my hand & # 39; looked like a Disney princess in her vintage style dress with lace detail and veil, while her groom could easily have been considered a handsome prince in a dark blue three piece suit.
In his handwritten speech that Lissie gave, he said she “looks more perfect than I could ever have imagined” and added, “Lissie, you are without a doubt the best example of perfection I have ever come across . "
Lissie was just as enthusiastic. She shied away from speaking publicly before Andrew's death, and wrote a reading given by her brother's friend explaining the many reasons she married him, including, “I love your solid size 14 shoes on that you make me stumble I love the little notes you leave me when you go to work. That you don't mind sleeping near the door when we go out, just in case. & # 39;
Andrew's protective, caring nature was one of the things that made Lissie fall in love with him for the first time. He was in her eighth year of high school and spent the next two years trying to win Lissie over by throwing paper planes and notes with drawings of silly faces at her in the classroom. A lovely brunette at the time, Lissie liked him from the start but insisted that dating would destroy their friendship, despite questioning her countless times.
Lissie with Andrew on their wedding day at Ardington House in Oxfordshire in the summer of 2019
It was a month after her 16th birthday and two months before his when she finally made Andrew's dreams come true by agreeing to be his girlfriend.
"He was very tall, already 6'5" and lanky, with rosy cheeks and very shy, even though he had many friends, "Lissie recalls, smiling at the memory of young Andrew.
“He was funny, always played around and made me laugh, but also very good-natured and caring. He offered me his coat when I was cold and made sure I had enough to eat.
"He was more mature than many boys of that age, he had part-time jobs and was with the army cadets. From the age of 16 he drove to school on a moped."
Lissie believes that Andrew's maturity and caring were in part the result of his early life experience. His mother left the family home when he was four and his younger brother, Sean, only one.
Thames Valley Police Officer PC Andrew Harper, 28, (right) with a colleague
The two boys were raised by their father while he was starting a stairlift company and later by their stepmother Karen, the mother of her half-sister Aimee, who is now 21 years old.
Andrew took his role as big brother very seriously and was always on the lookout for his siblings and, during their 12 years together, for Lissie and her family.
The young loved ones went to GCSEs at Henley College, Andrew to get a high school diploma in economics and environmental science and Lissie to study art and design.
“You were carefree in those early days, just as you are when you are a teenager. We had a large group of friends and we loved going to the movies and things like that. And food: Andrew loved food – he would eat a lot, as his stepmother Karen will surely testify! & # 39;
At 18, Andrew moved in with Lissie's family – mother Julie, who works for the Blue Cross charity, father Simon, 56, who owns a car restoration company, sister Kate, and brother Jake, 24.
The couple, who spent a sabbatical year in their early twenties and traveled through Africa, Asia and Australia for seven months, were 25 years old when they moved out of the detached five-bed room after saving a bail on their own home. Julie and Simon say they loved Andrew, who would cook, volunteer to empty the dishwasher, and use his large size to change lightbulbs "like a son".
His and Lissie's new home, a listed one-bedroom cottage on the banks of the Thames in South Oxfordshire, was small but quaint, with original fireplaces.
"We were so excited on our first night at our new home," recalls Lissie. "We ordered a pizza delivery and had to eat it on the floor as we didn't have a table or chairs."
Andrew, always the traditionalist, asked Simon for his daughter's hand in marriage during a family vacation in Norfolk in the summer of 2016. Simon, who had long introduced Andrew to friends as his "future son-in-law," had no hesitation in agreeing. However, the young officer took the time to hire Lissie's sister, Kate, to help him choose the perfect engagement ring – a rose gold aquamarine stone surrounded by diamonds that was bought from an antique shop in Amersham, Buckinghamshire.
Undated photo of the handout file issued by the Thames Valley Police of 28 year old PC Andrew Harper and his wife Lissie
It was May 2017 when he finally fell to one knee and presented it to her on a cliff overlooking Italy's Amalfi Coast in Sorrento.
Lissie recalls, "He said," We've been together since we were 16 and I couldn't imagine my life without you. I would love it if we were together for the rest of our lives. Will you marry me? & # 39;
& # 39; I said yes! & # 39; and we both laughed, then Andrew, who filmed everything on his phone, had a little scream. & # 39;
Lissie worked hard building her fledgling linoleum printing business, while Andrew regularly worked overtime to cover expenses.
This was a source of stress for Lissie, who admits she was naturally anxious and would lie awake at night worried about not making enough money. "We talked a lot at night because I had trouble sleeping, was worried about things like I could contribute more, and he said," Softly, monkeys are chattering in your brain, we're a team! & # 39; she says, smiling lovingly at the memory.
"Andrew had the enviable ability to focus only on what was important and not worry about anything else."
Lissie collapses and remembers one night fighting to sleep in fear of her own mortality when Andrew told her, "Death isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just another adventure."
Both were big fans of adventure, from bungee jumping and skydiving to paragliding and swimming with dolphins.
There was nothing they hadn't tried on their travels.
Browsing her photos is bittersweet – Lissie couldn't bring herself to watch her wedding video, which arrived shortly after Andrew's death. After Andrew's death, Lissie stayed with her family until May before finally returning to her cottage after her mother suggested that she adopt a British Shorthair rescue cat, Bernard, who curls up in the double bed next to her and at least a little of that Giant fills hole left by Andrew's death.
As a lifelong worry, however, Lissie says that now the worst she could have imagined has happened and has lost the love of her life. She no longer lives in fear. “I used to worry about Andrew going to work at night.
"Everything seems more scary in the dark, and even when he's ridden a motorcycle, even though he promised me he was always careful, whatever he was," she says.
There were allegations that the killers' relatives intimidated the jury during the trial, and a key was placed on my car on the day they were acquitted of murder when I filed for a retrial.
“I can't be sure who did this, but I know Andrew's killers and their supporters would probably prefer if I took a back seat. But I have no intention of doing that.
"Unfortunately, nothing I do is going to bring Andrew back, but I know he would be proud of me if he tried to bring about a change in the law (backed by the Police Federation) that will hopefully scare off anyone who considers doing so his colleagues at the front the terrible thing they did to him.
"Those who don't let this deter them deserve to spend the rest of their lives behind bars and be off the streets in a few years, like Andrew's killers will be."
(tagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) messages