JAN MOIR: I’ve shared the fear – and now the fury – of police families
The terrible trial of the terrible death of PC Andrew Harper reaches its terrible conclusion this week.
The young policeman was killed after being dragged to his death behind a car while trying to stop the theft of a quad bike.
His three snickering teenage killers were cleared by a jury of murder and convicted on the lesser charge of manslaughter instead.
They will be sentenced by Mr Justice Edis today, but some members of PC Harper’s family feel that justice has already been denied.
The terrible trial of the terrible death of PC Andrew Harper (pictured with his wife, Lissie) reaches its terrible conclusion this week
His distraught widow is calling upon the Prime Minister to force a retrial. Lissie Harper has declared herself ‘utterly shocked and appalled’ at the verdict.
The constable’s mother Debbie is also ‘bitterly disgusted’ that his killers were found not guilty of murder after dragging her son at high speed along Berkshire country lanes for over a mile.
It was a shocking way for anyone to die, but for a policeman to be killed in such a manner in the line of duty is particularly horrifying.
You can understand the rage of these bereaved women, not to mention their visceral need for proper justice for poor Andrew. I certainly do. Coming from a police family, I share their anger and understand their demands for harsher punishment.
Yet raw emotion is pushing them on, fuelling their deep sense of grievance at a judgment they feel is misbegotten. For being in a police family is not like being in a civilian family. You never stop worrying about them on duty.
You must learn to live with a nameless anxiety that is always there in the background, like the hum of a fridge or the rumble of traffic on a distant motorway.
I imagine it must be the same for military wives and husbands, for relatives of those on the emergency frontline, for all of us who have particular reason to dread forever the unexpected knock on the door or the ring of the telephone in the dead of night.
It comes with the territory of course — but when the very worst happens, the least we expect is a keen form of justice for the terrible loss of those killed on duty by the misdeeds of others.
It can’t have helped that the guilty men — Henry Long, 19, and Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, both 18 — did not show a shred of remorse for their crime.
In fact, the shameless brutes laughed and cheered in court when the verdicts were delivered. As the grieving family and friends sobbed nearby, one can only feel hot disgust at the callousness of their reactions and the lack of decency in their souls.
From the way they carried on, you would think that they had just won the lottery — and in a way they had.
For a typical sentence for manslaughter in the UK is two to ten years. They will still be young men when they come out of jail, with their lives unfurling in front of them all over again.
More from Jan Moir for the Daily Mail…
This is in grim contrast to the wife and mother who now embark on their own life sentence of sorrow, not to mention the friends, family and colleagues who also grieve.
It is particularly heartbreaking to know that Andrew and Lissie had only been married for four weeks — the bloom had barely faded from her wedding bouquet before tragedy struck.
The guilty men are all members of the travelling community — am I even allowed to say that?
If anyone had hoped for words of condemnation or regret from their community leaders, forget it. The silence, as always, has been deafening. Or did I miss something?
Meanwhile, a recent and controversial Channel 4 Dispatches investigation used data from over 200 traveller sites to show that crimes increased exponentially in their vicinity.
Yet, following the broadcast, there were immediate complaints that it had provoked a rise in hate speech towards the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community.
A charity called Friends, Families and Travellers wasted no time in passing its own dossier of complaints to the TV regulator Ofcom about the programme.
Yet here, in this terrible instance, these pressure groups have stayed silent. There seems to be no collective traveller outrage over the death of this young policeman. No signatures being collected in protest and horror.
PC Harper (pictured) was killed when he was dragged more than a mile after his ankle became caught in a tow strap of a getaway car as he tried to stop the teenagers stealing a quadbike
Not all travellers are bad people, of course, but sometimes it is hard — to say the least — to believe in the romantic, folksy, traditional, stick-whittling image they have of themselves.
On that fateful night, these three went out tooled up for a robbery. Long even admitted in court that he was a career thief, like his father and grandfather before him.
And when they became entangled with PC Harper, their only thoughts were to escape, no matter what. Their defence was that they had no idea they were dragging him behind their speeding vehicle.
The police often come in for criticism, not all of it unwarranted. They are going through a particularly torrid time at the moment, what with ‘taking the knee’ at anti-racism protests and calls for the entire force to be defunded.
The constable’s mother Debbie is also ‘bitterly disgusted’ that his killers were found not guilty of murder after dragging her son at high speed along Berkshire country lanes for over a mile
But we should not forget that they put their lives on the line, that they are first responders to the rough stuff of life, and they know just how bad the baddies can be.
And we must not forget PC Andrew Harper, a nice guy whose luck ran out in a Berkshire lane.
Speaking outside court, Lissie said she would never come to terms with how ‘such a beautiful, loving, decent human being could be dealt this fate.’ Agreed.
And all over a quadbike.
Amber’s cheesy new Deppths
The Johnny Depp libel trial came to a close this week, with Mr Justice Nicol’s ruling expected in September. Thank goodness, for we could not have taken much more.
On the last day, star witness Amber Heard seized the opportunity to unhook her milkmaid plaits, let down her buttery blonde hair and make a cheese-churning speech on the courthouse steps.
She talked of her pain, the agony of having ‘my truth questioned’ and having to share the ‘intimate details of my life with Johnny’.
It was an experience for us, too, darlin’! From the digestive problems of their pet Yorkshire terriers to the curious incident of the log in the night-time, Johnny and Amber did not disappoint.
On the last day of the Johnny Depp libel trial, star witness Amber Heard seized the opportunity to unhook her milkmaid plaits, let down her buttery blonde hair and make a cheese-churning speech on the courthouse steps
At the serious heart it was about the truth of a domestic-abuse allegation and the prelude to an even bigger libel trial in America — but there were times when it felt like a sordid showcase.
Still milking it, Amber’s final words were that she ‘put my faith in British justice.’
Then she went to dinner with her gal gang, to an authentic sushi bar in Soho said to ‘offer dishes not commonly found in London’.
Let’s hope that among the tuna tataki and the baked octopus balls (I didn’t know they had them) there was a dish called Revenge (Best Served Cold).
Meanwhile Johnny was giving out free bandanas to his fans, along with pre-autographed cards that thanked them for their support.
Hollywood came to town and left again, leaving behind an unedifying tale of people who have too much money, too much fame, too much everything.
Child poverty that’s really child neglect
Actress Juliet Stevenson has spoken out against the modish notion that actors must ‘tell their own story’ by only playing characters of their own race and sexuality and experience
Actress Juliet Stevenson has spoken out against the modish notion that actors must ‘tell their own story’ by only playing characters of their own race and sexuality and experience.
‘Do you mean you have to be a murderer to play a murderer?’ she asks. A fair point. But this seems to be the way things are going — on and off stage.
This week Annunziata Rees-Mogg (sister to Jacob) was denounced for saying poor people could make better choices in the supermarket, suggesting the oiks should buy potatoes instead of oven chips, saving 53p.
She was widely criticised — implying that if you are a rich Rees-Mogg you should only be allowed to opine on the gold-leaf restoration of antiquities or the joys of wearing spats. But does her wider point stand?
Poverty and privilege can be equally accidental but if you have never been poor or worried sick about money, made a deep dive for spare change down the sofa or gone hungry until Friday — can you really understand? For many, the choice is not between potatoes and oven chips, it is between potatoes and no potatoes.
Yet I do feel that poverty levels are widely exaggerated. Are there really so many children forced to go to school without breakfast or even a glass of water? If so, that is not child poverty, that is child neglect.
Is little Harper growing up too quickly?
Harper Beckham, nine, is a sweet child — but this week she was spotted wearing professional make-up and pierced Dior earrings, for a trip to the shops
Is there anything in life as oddly dispiriting as the pampered Beckham boys?
Plodding around the world in a miasma of expensive privilege, slaves to designer labels, they seem so dull, so lacking in spark and imagination, so talent-free.
With all their advantages, isn’t it about time they did something interesting? Brooklyn has a new heiress fiancée, Romeo has a new girlfriend, Cruz is playing tennis. Even little Harper is ready for her close-up.
She is a sweet child — but this week she was spotted wearing professional make-up and pierced Dior earrings, for a trip to the shops. Is nine-year-old Harper too young to be so styled? Or would lots of little girls be thrilled to be the same?
It’s Strictly about cash, dahling…
There seems to be a problem getting celebrities on the next series of Strictly Come Dancing — apparently the £60,000 fee is too low.
Surely no amount of money could compensate for the humiliation of climbing into a Lurex catsuit and thundering though the tango like a runaway train?
Anyway, it is not always the highest-paid star who is the most entertaining or most loved.
The problem is more that the celebrities we really want to see on there — Piers Morgan, Mary Berry, Lembit Opik*, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael Portillo, Kate Moss, Paul Hollywood, Adele, Jarvis Cocker, Alan Carr, Joan Collins, Hugh Grant, Gordon Ramsay, Vivienne Westwood, Huw Edwards and Robert Peston, to name a few — simply won’t do it.
*Actually Lembit would.
After the joys of the Great Unlock, the thought of going back into lockdown is just too terrible to contemplate — even though I have lost the knack of getting ready for work in the morning. It used to take 30 mins max — now it takes hours.
What is wrong with me?
Meanwhile, we have glimpsed the sunlit uplands, we have had a cup of coffee in an agreeable café — must we really now scuttle back to the shadows?
Perhaps the only thing to do is relax, prepare mentally for the second spike — and get your hair cut while you can.
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