10 June 2024

Harry Dunn’s mother ‘unspeakably hurt’ over son’s killer no-show

10 June 2024

Harry Dunn’s mother has said she is “unspeakably hurt” after her son’s killer refused to give live evidence to his inquest.

Northamptonshire coroner Anne Pember issued a request to US government employee Anne Sacoolas last year in which she invited her to attend remotely on Monday.

Mr Dunn’s inquest at Sessions House in Northampton heard the offer of remote attendance “has not been taken up” – a decision his mother, Charlotte Charles, describe as “incomprehensible” and “disrespectful”.

Sacoolas’s evidence will now be read to the court on Tuesday – which is set to  include a “significant statement” from her, sections of her police interview in October 2019 and her witness statement penned in December last year.

The Dunn family were informed of her refusal to give live evidence on Thursday – four days before the inquest was due to begin.

Sacoolas’s lawyer, Ben Cooper KC, told the inquest that she had given a “full account” to police at the time of the incident where she took “full responsibility for her actions”.

He said she had “provided everything she could to help this inquest” and offered to “answer any further questions”.

Northamptonshire Police Constable Al Knapper, who attended the scene, told the court Sacoolas was seen with her head in her hands and crying, after telling police “I was so stupid”, after the crash in August 2019.

On Monday, Mrs Charles delivered a pen portrait of her son, in which she addressed Sacoolas’s decision not to attend the inquest.

She said: “I wanted to say that learning that Anne Sacoolas will not be attending Harry’s inquest this week was bitterly disappointing and, as a mother, is utterly incomprehensible to me.

“She could have chosen to give me and our family this opportunity to finally understand what led to Harry’s death that night. But no.

“I am unspeakably hurt that she has chosen to hide instead and it cannot help but feel disrespectful to Harry, the life he had and the future he lost.”

Counsel to the inquest, Briony Ballard, said the coroner could not “force or compel an individual to attend”.

She said: “I know that she has been offered remote attendance but again, the coroner does not have any jurisdiction outside of Northamptonshire.

“That remote offer has not been taken up.

“We have had a witness statement in which she has responded to issues around training.

“I understand she would be available to answer any written questions.”

Sacoolas’s lawyer, Ben Cooper KC, told a pre-inquest review hearing in November that the US citizen was “keen to assist the inquest”.

She was driving a Volvo on the wrong side of the road outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on August 27 2019 before she crashed into Mr Dunn’s bike.

The US State Department asserted diplomatic immunity on behalf of Sacoolas and she was able to leave the UK 19 days after the fatal collision.

She appeared before a High Court judge at the Old Bailey via video-link in December 2022, where she pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving.

Sacoolas was advised against attending her sentencing hearing by her employer, which prompted the family to say they were “horrified” that the US government was “actively interfering in our criminal justice system”.

Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb handed Sacoolas an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

The Dunn family took their four-year campaign for justice to the US after the teenager’s death, which even led to a meeting with then-president Donald Trump in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington DC.

The inquest, which is scheduled to last for four days, continues.

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