The trial of three teenagers, now convicted of the manslaughter of British police constable Andrew Harper, who was dragged for a mile by a car, was dogged with trouble from the outset.

The first trial, which started in March, collapsed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and three jurors were forced into self-isolation.

Before that, proceedings had been temporarily halted after police received intelligence that jurors were being intimidated.

When the second trial began afresh, special measures had to be put in place to protect the jury from any possible threat of tampering.

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Without divulging details, the judge said police had received information "that an attempt is being considered by associates of the defendants to intimidate the jury".

The first jury was then provided with a private room, and anyone entering the public gallery was asked to provide proof of their identity. A third measure for their protection was kept secret.

On another occasion, the trial was again halted after a pregnant woman in the public gallery began a coughing fit that caused alarm that she was spreading coronavirus. It turned out she was a heavy smoker.

Then, on the day the nation went into lockdown, the original jury was discharged.

The new trial in the pandemic era began in June with social distancing in place and security further stepped up. Jurors were referred to by number rather than their name when sworn in and the public shunted off to an annexe to watch the proceedings by video link.

Officers lined the narrow country roads when the jury viewed the spot where Harper was killed and a police drone buzzed overhead. His death on a country lane was horrific and journalists were asked not to reveal too much detail to avoid upset. His widow left the court in tears.

Harper was a model officer. When he and his colleague Andrew Shaw received a report of a burglary last August, they were almost four and a half hours beyond the end of their shift.

Harper, or Harps, as he was known to all his friends and workmates, had only been married for four weeks and could have been forgiven for wanting to get home to his new wife, Lissie.

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But in a display of trademark professionalism he did not think twice before answering the call. It was a decision that would cost him his life.

A visit to the scene of the grisly crime – a jury decided this was not murder but manslaughter prompted furious reaction – was shrouded in the tightest security and even a police drone was sent skywards to watch over proceedings.

Then on Friday, a female juror was caught smiling and mouthing words to the three teenage defendants – Henry Long, 19 and Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole, both 18 – who had sat through the trial smirking and laughing and not seeming to care about the destroyed lives they had left in their wake. When Long was charged he said he "didn't give a f***."

All of it will raise concern the jury had indeed been got at.

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Harper's widow, in a deeply moving and distressing statement made outside court, could not conceal her disgust at Friday's verdicts.

"I am, for the second time in the space of one year, utterly shocked and appalled," Lissie Harper said.

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"The decisions made in these courts, by strangers, will never change the outcome that had already come to us."

The behaviour of the female juror in the second trial, who cannot be identified, caused alarm.

The woman was spotted by a security guard behaving in an "overtly friendly manner" towards the teenagers, all from the travelling community in Berkshire.

A prison officer sitting in the dock with the defendant, explained Justice Edis, had "seen a juror smiling at the dock and therefore the defendants more than once during the day. As she left, she walked by the defendants and said: 'Bye boys'."

The judge said the "horrific circumstances" of Harper's death meant: "It is therefore a little surprising to see a juror is positively going out of their way to behave in what some might describe as an overtly friendly manner.

"She must have been compelled by some quite strong motivation to behave as she did in this court. It is overt and covert at the same time. It is remarkable behaviour."

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When the jury returned without the dismissed juror, the judge explained he "had to spend some time this morning investigating the situation" before ordering them not to speculate on why she was absent.

It is unclear how the three killers could have charmed the mystery juror. Long, the driver of the car, was – even though only 18 at the time of the killing – already a career criminal with four convictions that included battery and shoplifting.

Unable to read or write and taken out of school at the age of 12 by his father after he got into trouble with teachers, he was the gang's ringleader.

The trio lived in social housing but all had links to West Berkshire's traveller community and in particular the Four Houses Corner travellers' site in Ufton Nervet.

They specialised in stealing quad-bikes and farm machinery. Long carried with him tools for breaking into sheds, and snapping metal chains and padlocks.

On the day of Harper's death, Long and the others had spent the day scouting out the local area for vehicles to steal, disguising his Seat Toledo by disabling the rear lights, covering the number plates with tape and removing any logos.

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On August 15 last year, the gang had stolen a quad bike. Harper, 28, in trying to arrest them, had got caught in a tow rope trailing from the car.

Long seemingly convinced jurors that, had he known the officer was trailing behind him, he would have stopped and tried to save the officer.

However, while sitting in the dock, Long laughed with Bowers and Cole as details of the horrific death were read out. Bowers, a friend of Long's since childhood, had an interest in the blood sport hare coursing and photographs from his Facebook account show dead hares killed by his hound.

Bowers, with convictions for sexual assault, battery and a racially aggravated public order offence, had never got as far as secondary school.

At one stage in the trial he fell asleep when the prosecution was showing footage of the officer being dragged to his death.

Cole, unlike the other two, had no previous convictions, but like them had left school unable to read and write. He attended a college for boys with learning difficulties and by the time he dropped out he could just about spell his own name.

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The first trial at the Old Bailey – the one begun before the coronavirus lockdown with a packed public gallery – had also been problematic from the beginning.

No sooner had it started, Justice Edis brought it to a halt over an alleged potential plot to intimidate jurors. An unidentified person in the public gallery overlooking the courtroom was seen pointing at jurors.