Anne Sacoolas is pictured above. Her husband, Jonathan, works at RAF Croughton
Donald Trump has defended the wife of a US diplomat who allegedly killed a British teenager in a car crash by saying it is hard to drive on the other side of the road.
Trump acknowledged that ‘a tragedy occurred’ and described suspect Anne Sacoolas – who he did not name – as ‘driving on the wrong side of the road,’ then suggested he had done the same too in the UK, where he has two golf courses.
‘Those are the opposite roads. That can happen,’ Trump said. ‘I won’t say it ever happened to me, but it did. When you get used to driving on our system and you’re all of a sudden on the other system, where you’re driving, it happens. You have to be careful.’
Trump on Wednesday publicly rebuffed a plea from Prime Minister Boris Johnson to waive diplomatic immunity for Sacoolas who is suspected of killing Harry Dunn, 19, and instead suggested the victim’s family meet her for ‘some healing’.
Dunn was killed when his motorbike crashed into a car on August 27 and Sacoolas, 42, who is married to a US intelligence official, fled to the US despite telling police she would not do so.
Dunn’s family has been desperately trying to ensure Sacoolas returns to the UK to participate in the police investigation, and this evening Mr Johnson urged the President to help ensure her diplomatic immunity is waived – but was embarrassingly rebuffed by Trump minutes later.
Donald Trump was asked publicly about Harry Dunn’s death and the suspicion that he was killed by an American spy’s wife and addressed it for the first time, calling it ‘a very complex issue.’ He said he wanted the woman and the bereaved family to meet for ‘some healing’
The family of Harry Dunn (left with blonde hair, his mother Charlotte Charles, and right his father Mr Dunn) have said a meeting with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab over the death of their son felt like a ‘publicity stunt’ – as they confirmed they were launching civil action against the suspect in the case
A Downing Street spokesman has revealed conversations between the Prime Minister (pictured earlier this week) and Mr Trump have taken place about the case of Harry Dunn
Harry Dunn’s mother Charlotte weeps as she and her family speak to the media following a meeting with foreign secretary Dominic Raab this afternoon
The couple were accompanied by their lawyer Radd Seiger (centre), who echoed the Dunn family’s disappointment at the outcome of the meeting with Mr Rabb (Ms Charles and Mr Dunn are pictured left and right)
Harry, 19, was killed n a car crash in Northamptonshire allegedly caused by the diplomat’s wife
It has been suggested that the vehicle which hit Harry had been travelling on the wrong side of the road after pulling out from RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire.
But Trump, speaking publicly for the first time about the case, made no commitment to send Sacoolas back to the UK – instead suggesting that he himself had driven on the wrong side of the road, adding: ‘That can happen’.
The discussion between the two leaders came after Harry’s family, from Oxfordshire, met with British foreign secretary Dominic Raab this afternoon, but slammed the meeting as a ‘publicity stunt’ that left them ‘angry and frustrated’.
In his phone call with the President, Mr Johnson personally asked Mr Trump to ‘reconsider the US position’ to grant immunity to Sacoolas.
Trump called it ‘a very complex issue’, adding: ‘We are going to speak to her very shortly and do something where they meet.
‘We are going to speak to her and see if we can come up with something so there is some healing.’
Trump added that there was ‘tremendous anger’ over the case, and he understood why that was. He acknowledged that US public opinion was also likely to be in favour of Sacoolas being stripped of diplomatic immunity.
‘I understand where the people from the UK [feel], and frankly a lot of Americans feel the same way,’ he said.
But he said: ‘The person that was driving the automobile has diplomatic immunity.
‘It was an accident. It was a terrible accident.’
A Downing Street spokesman revealed conversations between the Prime Minister and Trump have taken place.
He said: ‘The two leaders discussed the tragic death of Harry Dunn.
‘The Prime Minister urged the President to reconsider the US position so the individual involved can return to the UK, co-operate with police and allow Harry’s family to receive justice.
‘The President said he was fully aware of the case and deeply saddened by what has happened, and he expressed his condolences to Harry’s parents.
‘The leaders agreed to work together to find a way forward as soon as possible.’
This afternoon Mr Raab met Harry’s mother, Charlotte Charles, and father, Tim Dunn, who earlier today said they have been left in limbo after Ms Sacoolas fled to the US.
But speaking after the meeting, Harry’s mother Charlotte Charles said: ‘I’m disgusted and feel let down by both governments. Nothing useful came out of the meeting with Dominic Raab. Although he engaged with us, it just felt like a publicity stunt.’
Mr Dunn added: ‘We feel extremely let down. The really disappointing thing is that it seems that it’s OK to kill a young lad and then walk away just because you have diplomatic immunity.’
The family of Harry Dunn, mother Charlotte Charles (second right) and father Tim Dunn (second left) leaving the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, where they met Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, but were left ‘angry and frustrated.’
Charlotte Charles (left) and Tim Dunn (right), the parents of Harry Dunn, arrive with their partners at the Foreign Office today ahead of the meeting with the Foreign Secretary
Harry’s parents say they’ve been left in limbo after the driver who allegedly hit him fled the UK
Asked about his son by reporters, Mr Dunn became emotional and was supported by his family as he called him a ‘special boy’.
‘He was a beautiful boy, a beautiful lad, he had so many friends, he loved life, he loved his motorbikes, loved his football,’ he said.
‘He didn’t have a bad bone in his body, he just loved his family, he just loved everything.
‘He was a special boy and I miss him like mad.’
The couple were accompanied by their lawyer Radd Seiger, who echoed the Dunn family’s disappointment at the outcome of the meeting with Mr Rabb.
Giving a statement on behalf of the family, he said: ‘To say we are disappointed with the outcome would be an understatement. We are frustrated. We are angry.’
He added: ‘Before the meeting we were led to believe that something positive would come out of it. But all Mr Raab made clear to us is that the Americans insist that Mrs Sacoolas has full diplomatic immunity and under no circumstances are they going to grant a waiver.
‘Our position is that she does not have diplomatic immunity and must return to Britain to face the consequences of her actions.’
Ms Charles also said: ‘I can’t really see the point we were invited to see Dominic Raab, we are no further forward than where we were this time last week.
‘Although he is engaging with us, we have no answers. We are really frustrated that we could spend half an hour or more with him and just come out with nothing.’
The lawyer for Mr Dunn’s family later said they are engaging lawyers to take a civil case against Anne Sacoolas in the US.
‘Our position is that she doesn’t have immunity and that waivers are always granted in these circumstances,’ Radd Seiger told reporters in Westminster on Wednesday.
‘Now we can disclose to you we have brought lawyers on board. We are going to Washington soon to help us get that justice for Harry.’
Harry’s parents, Charlotte and Tim, could be forced to go to the US to get answers
The Dunn family have hired leading lawyers Mark Stephens and Geoffrey Robertson, QC, who specialise in diplomatic law.
Central to their case is the issue of what level of diplomatic immunity Mrs Sacoolas and his family had, if any at all. Her husband was an intelligence official at RAF Croughton but did not appear on the list of diplomats in the UK with immunity.
Mr Seiger has also has invited US president Donald Trump to have a conversation with the family about the issue.
‘If meeting with President Trump would help us get a step closer to seek justice for Harry, to get justice for that boy who died that night needlessly, one of the most wonderful kids in our community, if that’s what it takes then I will extend an invitation now to President Trump,’ he said.
‘Meet us. Let’s have a chat. Nobody wants to litigate.’
Ms Charles added: ‘We will still keep going, there’s still fire in our bellies. We will continue to fight for justice for Harry because there’s that feeling in our stomachs that something is not right.’
She called on Mrs Sacoolas to return and face justice, insisting that an apology was no longer sufficient.
‘I want her to talk to us and face up to what she’s done. I don’t see how it can be correct to abscond like this. What sort of example is she setting to her children?
‘She’s had six weeks, an apology is not enough anymore.’
One of the family’s lawyers, Mark Stephens told MailOnline: ‘This family have been deliberately misled. To have full diplomatic immunity you have to be in an official diplomatic post and have to present your credentials. Mr Sacoolas did not do any of these things from my understanding.
‘As a result, his wife was not entitled to leave the country because she did not have full diplomatic immunity. The Dunns need to start a civil action in America as quickly as possible and the Foreign Office should pay for it because they have let this family down.’
Harry Dunn (pictured, right, and, left, with his mother) died following a crash near the RAF airbase in Northamptonshire
Prior to meeting the US Ambassador, Mr Raab raised the case in a telephone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Northamptonshire Police have also asked the US to consider waiving the immunity.
After Tuesday’s meeting, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said: ‘The Foreign Secretary met the US Ambassador today and urged the US to reconsider its position and do the right thing by Harry Dunn’s family.’
Speaking to Sky News about the meeting with the Foreign Secretary, Ms Charles said: ‘We’ve been offered the chance to now meet Dominic Raab and we’ve got that meeting this afternoon. We’re very much hoping for some positivity.
‘I hope he can look at us as human beings that just need our UK Government on our side.
‘If we get that positivity and we get that breakthrough that we need, then we can actually start looking after ourselves and our other boy – his twin.
‘Until we get the positivity and the answers we need, we are still in the mode of just keeping going with that fire in our belly that still keeps telling us that something is not right.’
Mr Dunn said: ‘Hopefully he’s going to tell us the news we want to hear – that they’ve got the waiver for the immunity and she is going to be coming back for justice for Harry.’
A crowdfunding page set up for Harry’s family to begin their ‘campaign to search for justice’ and to help Harry’s twin brother, Niall, reached its £10,000 target on Tuesday and has since passed £15,000.
Earlier today human right lawyer Mark Stephens today insisted that, if Mrs Sacoolas was not brought back to the UK, Harry’s parents could bring civil legal action in the U.S.
Mr Stephens told BBC Breakfast: ‘Immunity doesn’t apply in the home country so even if the Foreign Office are correct and Mr and Mrs Sacoolas were entitled to immunity then, in those circumstances, if they’ve got back to America, immunity no longer applies.
‘The family can go to America and sue Mrs Sacoolas in that country because she will not have immunity in America or any other third country.’
He said that, if the British government failed to have Mrs Sacoolas returned to the UK, the government should fund legal action in the US to uphold what he called Harry’s parents’ ‘human right’ to find out how he died.
Mr Stephens added: ‘If the only way to do that [get answers] is by going to the US to sue Mrs Sacoolas it wouldn’t be about money, it would be about the explanation that they have been asking for, hearing from her, what happened in those last moments.’
Harry was going to his father’s house when he was in the collision with Mrs Sacoolas’s Volvo XC90 outside RAF Croughton, a US intelligence hub in Northamptonshire.
Police said Mrs Sacoolas – who has driving offences to her name in America – had been travelling on the wrong side of the road for 400 yards when she collided with Harry’s motorbike at around 8.30pm on August 27.
Mrs Sacoolas initially cooperated with police after being told Harry had died, but later fled to the US with her husband and three children, citing immunity due to her husband’s job at the base.
It came as:
- Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab met with US ambassador Woody Johnson to ‘ask the US to reconsider its position and do the right thing by Harry Dunn’s family’;
- America was accused of hypocrisy after it emerged the US Department of State’s own guidelines say diplomatic immunity should not be extended to those committing ‘serious or repeat driving offences’ in the US;
- Northamptonshire police was set to present a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service;
- Harry’s family raised £10,000 via GoFundMe to travel to the US.
Harry is pictured with his mother, Charlotte, in an undated photograph provided by the family
With no sign America will back down, Mrs Charles, 44, said her family would travel to Washington if necessary, in the hope of speaking to President Trump.
The Foreign Office and US Embassy have confirmed Mrs Sacoolas’s husband Jonathan and his family are entitled to immunity.
Mrs Charles believes their immunity should be waived as the crime was potentially serious and involved the loss of a life.
In a direct appeal to Mr Trump she urged him to ‘try to see it from our point of view and our heartache’ and said she hoped he could help in bringing Mrs Sacoolas back to the UK for justice and to ‘help us to start grieving again’.
Harry’s parents embarked on a round of interviews yesterday, including an appearance on ITV’s This Morning.
Harry’s father Tim has devastatingly told how he cradled his dying son at the roadside. Mr Dunn, head of maintenance at an independent school, was called to the scene of the collision by a firefighter, a family friend who recognised Harry.
Mr Dunn, who described Harry as ‘the centrepiece of the family and an amazing lad’, asked police whether the driver had been injured, and was told she was fine. Harry suffered multiple horrific injuries and died in hospital.
The crash took place in August outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire (pictured) – a US intelligence hub in Britain
Boris Johnson said it is ‘not right’ to use immunity in this way, and has promised to raise the case with Mr Trump if it is not resolved.
Mrs Charles, who works in a GP surgery, said the family did not want to see Mrs Sacoolasjailed – only to speak to her and for the case to be concluded.
She added: ‘We won’t stop… diplomatic immunity is there to protect the diplomat and or their family when they are in danger – it is not there to protect them when they commit crimes as serious as this.’
She also said Harry’s twin, Niall, was ‘devastated’ and was trying to ‘rediscover who he is’ after the death of his brother.
There are around 23,000 people entitled to diplomatic immunity in the UK. In 2017, 26 crimes were allegedly committed by people with immunity. Five of these were driving-related.
The Sacoolas family were said to have lived in a rented property in a village less than two miles from the scene of the tragedy.
Mrs Sacoolas briefly sent the couple’s children to Winchester House School, where Harry’s father worked as a caretaker.
Why are Americans at RAF Croughton in the UK?
RAF Croughton is an air base that is currently being leased by the US government.
It houses the 422nd Air Base Group, but is also being used by spies working for the Joint Intelligence Operations Center Europe (JIOCEUR).
JIOCEUR is a military intelligence analysis center which is part of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The agency is an external branch of government which provides intelligence to ‘warfighters, defense policymakers and force planners in the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community’.
The entrance to RAF Croughton is shown. Sacoolas was exiting the base when she turned onto the wrong side of the road on August 27
It provides intelligence information for the U.S. European and African commands as well as NATO.
The Center is based at RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire but, following the 2015 announcement that it was to close in 2023, many of the positions were moved to Croughton.
There are plans to consolidate it with the U.S. Africa Command to make a larger station at Croughton that will be known as the Joint Intelligence Analysis Complex – a major hub for US intelligence gathering.
According to locals in Croughton, the communications center – where Sacoolas’ husband is said to work – is a ‘site within the site’ which has its own separate security.
The US government is reconsidering the relocation after being met with resistance from lawmakers who said it would be too expensive.
A file photo of a geodesic dome covering radar scanners and satellite dishes at the base. It is an intelligence gathering hub which the US Defense Intelligence Agency uses to collect information from Europe and Africa