The recent death of Policeman Andrew Harper is possibly the perfect example of a story which ticks nearly every single news value imaginable. P.C. Andrew Harper was tragically killed when he was dragged along by a car while he was investigating a burglary.
The unexpected early death of anyone in the prime of their life is a tragedy, but when they’re fresh off their honeymoon having only got married four weeks ago, this sense of tragedy is enhanced.
The wedding photos of the happy couple have been widely circulated in the media, as was Andrew’s wife Open Letter Tribute to him, all of which encourage us to read the story from the perspective of Andrew’s widow: imagining the tragedy of their life together now cut short.
Even though we we’ve no idea whether there was actually any intent behind the killing of Andrew Harper much of the media has simplified this event by labelling it a murder. And even though we can’t be sure who did it, the main suspects are from a local traveller’s site.
This adds to the ‘perfect narrative’ of ‘good cop, keeping us safe’ killed by deviant travellers who harass and steal from good local communities, of which Andrew Harper was firmly embedded, in the ‘protector role’.
NB I’m not saying that this was a simple event, but that’s how it’s been constructed in the media!
Bang in the middle of an elite nation
Not only did this event took place in Britain, it took place bang in the middle of Britain – in Wallingford in the small home counties county of Oxfordshire. Ticking the ‘white middle class’ norm box perfectly.
This event happened very quickly, it was over in the course of one night, and it’s not a complex drawn-out thing to understand.
The murder of a policeman is extraordinary, very unusual: only 8 U.K. policemen have been killed in the line of duty since 2010.
Murder is big big news, and the murder of a policeman even more so. Not only this, but the fact that we don’t know who did it led to 10 ‘travellers’ being arrested – which is an unusually high suspect count for any individual crime.
This murder of a policeman ties in well with another recent news story – the stabbing of another policeman only a couple weeks earlier, also while engaged in a seemingly routine operation of stopping a van.
This is an extremely tragic event, but it’s also a perfect media event. I do feel sorry for his widow and family, the media are going to be dining out on this for at least the rest of the year.
As if moving on from this wasn’t going to be hard enough already!