Tuesday, May 28, 2024

PC Harper mother plea

The mother of PC Andrew Harper, who died after being dragged along the road by quad bike thieves, has made a heartfelt plea to West Berkshire Council to not allow gyspy travellers back to the site linked with her son’s death.

But her request only earned a delay on the decision for refurbishment of the site at Four Houses Corner in Ufton Nervet, said to cost around £3m.

“I cant take this laying down for Andrew, his memory and his colleagues,” she said. “They remain haunted by the events of that night.

“I have to protect his memory. We will never be able to move on and that connection to the site will remain for ever.”

Henry Long, from Mortimer was arrested at the Four Houses Corner site before he was convicted of the manslaughter of PC Andrew Harper and jailed for 16 years.

PC Harper, 28, died as he attempted to apprehend three teenagers who were trying to steal a quad bike. The officer became entangled in a tow rope attached to their Seat Toledo and was dragged at “breakneck” speed for more than a mile along country lanes.

Long, who was driving the car towing a stolen quad bike, was jailed for 16 years, while his accomplices Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole were each given 13 years.

The UK’s Traveller movement spoke out to strongly condemn the actions of the three killers, as well as their alleged lack of remorse and laughter during the trial.

“We have had no sense of empathy from that community in four years,” added Ms Adlam, PC Harper’s mother. “They have parties which last for days…and  just after the sentencing.

“I am not a racist person but the community have not had any positive reaction towards us since this terrible thing happened.

“They call those boys that did this heroes. The police who have to police it have had their tyres slashed and windows broken.

“There have been events they have had to attend and they have been taunted with the death of Andrew. What about the mental health of those officers?

“My worry is if this reopens but I just want to say anyone who thinks who knows how bad it was – it was a lot worse. The devastation on his body was dreadful. Will the police have a suicide on their hands? I want them to be safe.”

Twelve objections to the plans were lodged ahead of last night’s (Wednesday) Eastern Area Planning Committee.

“There is very recent and tragic history associated with this site, namely PC Harper,” said David Buddery. “For this reason alone this site should not be approved. If this site were to re-open it would be very distressing for many local residents not to mention the relatives of PC Harper who still live locally.

“I find it appalling that West Berks would even consider the re-opening of this site considering its history.”

Before the planning officers laid out the proposals, they made a statement saying their sympathies were with the family of PC Harper, but that the decisions were being made on planning grounds.

“This has to be the most inappropriate, tone deaf planning application,” wrote Jennie Gerrard objecting to the plans to revamp the site into 17 double permanent gypsy traveller homes, including a play area, kitchen and utilities building.

“After such a heinous crime done to him. His mother and family have had their hearts ripped out and you think to make this a permanent site. This is the final  insult and betrayal to Andrew.”

The council has a legal duty to plan for adequate accommodation for the Gypsy and Traveller community and has to deliver a five year supply.

The council committee voted to defer the decision on grounds that they wanted more clarity on how the flood and drainage issues would be handled.

And they wanted public consultation about the site before making a decision.

Mortimer parish councillor Graham Bridgman tried to argue against it using planning policy against the council officers.

Sullhamstead and Ufton Nervet parish representative Margaret Baxter also claimed due process was not followed properly with the application and tried to get it thrown out until a public consutlation takes place.

Both rasied questions about how many people would be on a site with 136 people, far bigger than the 70 on the previous site.

They also used the AWE Aldermaston DEPZ as a concern, along with extra traffic and flooding.

Local councillor Nick Carter (Lib Dem, Burghfield and Mortimer) said he could only begin to imagine what the family went through, but said: “Those who committed this crime did not live at the site.

“The governemnt guidelines are to integrate more closely with local communities. Any attempt to relcoate to nearer Mortimer or Burghfield would fail as they have a legal right to return to that site.

He supported the application.

Ross MacKinnon (Con, Bradfield) said community engagement with this sort of emotional situation was important, adding issues with drainage should be bottomed out before the committee meets again.