The widow of Pc Andrew Harper has described the “heartbreak” of not being able to celebrate his 30th birthday on Monday together – but is more determined than ever to change the law in his name.
Lissie Harper said she will mark what would have been her late husband’s milestone privately, going for a quiet walk in one of their favourite places with a flask of tea and some flowers, rather than taking him away to “spoil” him as she would have otherwise wanted.
Mrs Harper, 30, said her husband’s death in August 2019 – just four weeks after they got married – still felt “surreal”.
And she said she will continue to wear the wedding ring she was so proud to place on her left hand the day she wed her partner of 13 years, despite the emotional toil of having to explain her “situation” to strangers.
Mrs Harper also said how she had not heard from the three teenagers jailed for her husband’s death – and would not welcome the correspondence, either.
Speaking from her parents’ home in Oxfordshire on the eve of her late husband’s 30th birthday, Mrs Harper told the PA news agency: “His 30th birthday would have been something we would have celebrated, and it’s still very surreal to me that we’re not, and he’s not here.
“Everything is different now and that highlights the cruelness of it – he’s not going to have another birthday.
“Thirty is such a big one that you do make an effort to spoil them.
“That’s what we would have been doing. It would have been a really special day, so it’s very bitter to have to spend that without him.
“I would have taken him away, done something special.”
She added: “He was never the sort (to say), ‘Oh great, I’m getting older’.
“He loved to live – that’s why it’s so heart-breaking, because of all the people for it to happen to… it’s the cruellest.”
Mrs Harper herself turned 30 in December, something she found particularly difficult to celebrate.
“I never thought that I would be spending it without him,” she said. “It never occurred to me.”
She will mark Monday in similarly subdued style.
“I think something very quiet,” she said. “I plan to just be with my family.
“The thing is that every day is hard.
“It’s just another day, in a way – the only difference is a light is shone upon it… and he’s still not here.”
Mrs Harper said she found it particularly challenging when having to explain her husband’s death to strangers.
“Another thing I’ve found is if I meet somebody and they don’t know my situation, or they see my wedding ring,” she said.
“It’s those moments that are quite like – ‘Oh, God’ – waiting for them to ask me about it or having to explain it I think are particularly hard.”
She said discussions about when and whether a bereaved person should remove their wedding ring were common in a support group she has joined for young people in her situation.
“Some people swap it to the other hand,” she said.
“It’s just another thing you have to deal with yourself.
“It (the ring) is still on, and it will stay there for the moment.”
Pc Harper, 28, was responding to a quad bike theft on his final shift with Thames Valley Police before his honeymoon when he was caught in a strap attached to the back of a car driven by Henry Long down a winding country road in Berkshire on the night of August 15, 2019. He suffered horrific injuries and died at the scene.
Long admitted manslaughter and was sentenced to 16 years, while his passengers Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers were convicted of manslaughter after a trial at the Old Bailey. They were each handed 13-year sentences.
Mrs Harper said she had not heard from the teenagers imprisoned over her husband’s death, and said she did not expect to.
She added: “But I don’t really have any interest in hearing from them, that’s not my goal, that’s not my focus.
“All I can do is focus on what I am in control of.”
The Court of Appeal last year rejected a bid by the Attorney General to increase the sentences handed to Long, 19, and his accomplices, both 18.
The decision has emboldened Mrs Harper’s campaign for Harper’s Law – a mandatory life sentence for those who kill emergency workers due to a criminal act.
The campaign has been backed by the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland QC, whose departments are working behind the scenes to fine-tune the proposals before they come before Parliament.
Mrs Harper said: “The people who will be affected by this law are criminals committing a crime – that can only be a good thing to increase the sentence.
“Will I give up? No, absolutely not. It’s too important.
“I won’t give up until we get there.”