Harry Dunn's mother to continue fight for justice one year on

Harry Dunn’s mother says her son’s name is ‘forever written in history’ as she vows to continue her battle for justice one year on from his death

  • Teen was killed when his motorbike crashed into a car outside a US military base
  • Alleged killer Anne Sacoolas, a diplomat’s wife, fled to US and has not returned
  • Family successfully campaigned to fix the ‘anomaly’ in immunity agreements 
  • Mother Charlotte Charles said the family was ‘very, very proud’ of their efforts
  • But she said they feel they are not ‘living…just existing’ until justice is achieved 

Harry Dunn’s mother says her son’s name is ‘forever written in history’ as she vows to continue her battle for justice one year on from his death.

The 19-year-old motorcyclist was killed in a road crash outside a US military base in Northamptonshire on August 27 last year.

His alleged killer, Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a US intelligence official claimed immunity and fled across the Atlantic without returning.  

One of the ambitions of the Dunn family’s campaign was to close the loophole that allowed Sacoolas to claim immunity, a matter that was resolved by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in July.

Speaking on the anniversary of the tragedy today, Harry’s mother, Charlotte Charles, said the whole family was ‘very, very proud’ of their efforts to ensure no family would ‘suffer like we had’.

She also spoke of the pain Mr Dunn’s relatives have endured, admitting that until justice is achieved, ‘it doesn’t feel like we’re living, we’re just existing’.

Harry Dunn, 19, pictured, was killed in a road crash outside a US military base in Northamptonshire a year ago today

Key events following the death of Harry Dunn one year ago 

2019

– August 27: Motorcyclist Harry Dunn collides with a Volvo outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire. He is taken to the John Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford but is pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

– August 28: Northamptonshire Police interview 42-year-old suspect Anne Sacoolas in connection with the crash.

– August 30: A briefing note copied to the Foreign Secretary’s private office reveals the concern for the potential for ‘very unpalatable headlines’.

– September 13: A request to waive diplomatic immunity claimed by Ms Sacoolas is formally rejected by the US.

– September 14: A senior Foreign Office official sends a text message to their US counterpart saying: ‘I think that now the decision has been taken not to waive, there’s not much mileage in us asking you to keep the family here. It’s obviously not us approving of their departure but I think you should feel able to put them on the next flight out … ‘

– September 15: Ms Sacoolas leaves the country on a United States Air Force plane, but the Dunn family are not informed of her departure until three weeks later. Northamptonshire Police are also not told that she has left the UK.

– October 4: Harry’s parents Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn call on US President Donald Trump to intervene and waive immunity for Ms Sacoolas.

– October 5: Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urges US Ambassador Woody Johnson to waive immunity for Ms Sacoolas.

– October 6: Police write to the US Embassy in London to demand immunity is waived.

– October 7: Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the US should ‘reconsider its position’ on the immunity given to Ms Sacoolas.

– October 9: Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn attend a meeting with the Foreign Secretary which leaves them ‘angry and frustrated’ and feeling as though it was a ‘publicity stunt’. Mr Johnson speaks to Mr Trump personally to ask him to reconsider the US’s position.

– October 12: Ms Sacoolas breaks her silence and issues a statement through her lawyer, saying the crash left her ‘devastated’.

– October 14: Mr Dunn’s family hold a press conference in New York after taking their fight for justice to the US.

– October 15: Mr Dunn’s family announce their intention to launch a judicial review into the advice given by the Foreign Office to Northamptonshire Police over the diplomatic immunity given to Ms Sacoolas. The White House calls an ‘urgent’ meeting with Mr Dunn’s family and they have talks with Mr Trump. Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn refuse to meet Ms Sacoolas, who was in the room next door as they met Mr Trump.

– October 31: Northamptonshire Police confirm they had interviewed the suspect in the case in the US and were passing the file of evidence over to the CPS.

– December 20: The CPS charges Ms Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving.

2020

– January 10: The Home Office submit an extradition request for Ms Sacoolas.

– January 23: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally rejects the extradition request for Ms Sacoolas.

– January 24: The Home Office say the refusal of their extradition request amounts to a ‘denial of justice’. The Foreign Secretary said the UK ‘would have acted differently if this had been a UK diplomat serving in the US’.

– May 11: The family receive an e-mail from Northamptonshire Police saying Ms Sacoolas is ‘wanted internationally’ and reports of an Interpol Red Notice being issued for the suspect follow.

– May 12: The US State Department say the decision not to extradite Ms Sacoolas is ‘final’ after Interpol Red Notice claims.

– May 20: Mr Dunn’s mother calls for Mr Raab’s resignation.

– May 28: The family announce their intention to bring a private prosecution against the Foreign Secretary, accusing him of misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice.

– June 18: The family are refused documents on the UK’s secret agreement with the US in their first High Court battle with the Foreign Office.

– July 22: Mr Raab announces the ‘anomaly’ which allowed Ms Sacoolas to claim diplomatic immunity following the road crash that killed Mr Dunn has been amended.

– July 26: Harry Dunn’s parents drop their legal claim against Northamptonshire Police after concluding the force is ‘absolved of any blame’.

– August 25: The Lord Chancellor said Attorney General Suella Braverman was considering the possibility of trying Ms Sacoolas virtually or in her absence. 

Mrs Charles said she ‘won’t stop’ campaigning until Sacoolas has faced the UK justice system.

The 42-year-old US national was able to return to her home country but was charged with causing death by dangerous driving in December.

The US State Department has since rejected an extradition request for Sacoolas, saying that the decision was ‘final’.

Reflecting on her campaign for justice on the anniversary of her son’s death, Mrs Charles said: ‘I’m feeling really positive in the sense of what the campaign has achieved and how much hard work we’ve put into it, it’s definitely paying off.

‘On a personal level, realising that we’re a year on from when we lost Harry, it’s very difficult to come to terms with.

‘When we think about different steps along the way, it feels like some of those steps were an awfully long time ago – almost in a different lifetime.

‘Yet when I think about the last time I held Harry, it seems like yesterday.’

Asked what the most difficult obstacle to overcome had been, Mrs Charles said: ‘All the trips to the States I think.

‘There’s no way we wouldn’t have done any of them, but emotionally that was extremely difficult.

‘It didn’t get any easier.

‘From the first trip in October until the last trip just before lockdown, it didn’t get any easier leaving Niall (Mr Dunn’s twin brother) at home and leaving my treasured bits behind that I still have around the house.

‘On the last trip I actually took photos of them before I went so I could have them with me. Travel is hard.’

Mrs Charles, alongside Mr Dunn’s father, Tim Dunn, have seen their fight for justice take them to the Foreign Office and the White House, where they met with President Donald Trump.

The family have brought legal claims against both the Foreign Secretary and the US Government for their handling of Mr Dunn’s death.

Commenting on what had kept her going throughout the campaign, Mrs Charles responded: ‘Harry.

‘The love you have for your child.’

Referring to the pledge she made to her son on the night he died, Mrs Charles said: ‘That’s what keeps you going.

‘The burning desire to want to complete that promise.

‘It’s the first thing you think of whenever you get a moment, in between everything else we’re doing you just get that quiet moment when you just get that rage of desire all over again to think ‘come on, we’ve got to drive this forward’.

‘I’ve got to complete that promise I made to him , it doesn’t matter what it takes, I need to do it, I have to do it.’

Questioned on what her hopes were for the next 12 months, Mrs Charles said: ‘That she (Sacoolas) goes through the UK justice system.

‘As we’ve said right from the off, you and I would have to do it. It doesn’t matter to me who she is, what her status is, where she lives, what she does for a job.

‘She needs to go through the UK justice system. Simple as that. I won’t stop until we’ve got that.’

In September last year, the family were told by Northamptonshire Police they had less than a 1% chance of anybody being held accountable for Mr Dunn’s death.

But since the CPS charge in December, the UK Government has tried different methods to resolve the matter, with a reported Interpol Red Notice being issued and discussions over whether Sacoolas could be tried either virtually or in her absence.

Asked what she felt was the biggest accomplishment of the campaign to date, Mrs Charles said: ‘By far getting the treaty changed.

‘Harry’s name is in history now, forever written into history.

‘The ‘Harry Dunn Amendment’… it just makes us so very, very proud as a family.

‘What we have been through can no longer happen to anyone else, that was one of our main aims right from the off so a few weeks ago when that was done, and that loophole was plugged, it was just amazing to know that nobody is going to suffer like we have.

‘He would have been proud of us.

‘Really, really proud of us.’

An emotional Mrs Charles continued: ‘Prior to that, the CPS charge just before Christmas.

‘We were told on September 26 that we would have less than 1% chance of that.

‘That was huge for us, monumental for us.

‘It was literally just a tiny little chip off the tip of the iceberg but that was a celebration.’

But she added: ‘You quickly come back down from it because you know there is an awfully long way to go, but it was amazing.’

The Dunn family have said they were not able to grieve properly during and after their son’s funeral in September, and only scattered his ashes last month at one of his favourite spots in Portland, Dorset.

Mr Dunn told BBC Breakfast: ‘I said to the guys when it’s my time to go, I want my ashes scattered here, and Harry said the same. 

Charlotte Charles said the whole family was ‘very, very proud’ of their efforts to ensure no family would ‘suffer like we had’

‘It was like…’same for me, Dad, this is where I want to be as well’, and then unfortunately, a month later, we lost him.

‘It definitely, definitely is my special place, it’s all our special places.’ 

Speaking about how the family had coped since they lost Harry, Mrs Charles said: ‘We cry.

‘I cry probably a lot more now than I did.

‘I don’t know whether that is because a year has gone by or whether it is because I miss him more.

‘So I do cry.

‘Not as much as I should, but I don’t think the grieving process really has got under way.

‘We don’t really get the time to lock ourselves away and allow those tears to really fall because you’re very aware of the fact that if you allow it to happen, you sometimes need a few days to get yourself back on track.

‘The campaign is so busy and we are so grateful for that but we can’t allow ourselves to take a week off at a time.

‘So we are crying but no I don’t believe we are properly grieving yet.

‘We’ve got to get that promise completed and then I think I can.’

The wife of a US intelligence official, Anne Sacoolas, pictured, claimed immunity following the tragedy last year

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mrs Charles said she wanted to see more progress in her fight for justice over the next 12 months than she has experienced so far.

‘We don’t want to go into year two of fighting,’ she said. 

‘We want to go into year two to try to start to rebuild our lives and try to start possibly celebrating who Harry was. 

‘But it doesn’t feel like we’re living, we’re just existing at the moment, and that’s why we need the justice, because without it we’ll always feel like we’re just existing.’

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