Harry Dunn’s parents stood up to Donald Trump. Why won’t our government?
16th October 2019
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He probably thought a school caretaker and a lady who works in a GP's surgery wouldn't present him with a problem.

But Donald Trump didn't reckon on solid British backbone, or a sense of parental responsibility.

He invited Charlotte Cross and Tim Dunn to meet him at the White House after they flew to the US and launched a media blitz, accusing him and his government of obstructing justice.

They want Anne Sacoolas, wife of a US diplomat, to return to the UK and answer police questions about how her car killed their 19-year-old son Harry outside a Northamptonshire airbase. She had told officers she had diplomatic immunity, then fled.

Trump held Charlotte's hand, as she told him about Harry. How he loved motorbikes, and that on her way home from work she'd seen him set out on a dry, sunny August evening. He'd nodded at her, she waved back, and the next time she saw him he was dead.

His arms and legs were broken. His internal injuries were so bad the doctors said there were no organs left to donate. All they could use, to help others, were his retinas and those bits of skin that weren't damaged.

Trump heard all that, then pulled a stunt that would not be out of place on one of his reality TV shows. He said Sacoolas was in the room next door, and would they like to meet her.

Family spokesman Radd Seiger said: "It was almost like, 'Hey, I've got someone who wants to see you'. Then I look to my side and see at least 3 photographers ready to do a press call."

Trump expected some headlines about his amazing deal-making skill, and probably hoped for a joint press conference.

He was told no. Possibly for the first time in his life.

Harry's mum said it would not be right without the help of counsellors, and before Sacoolas had faced justice.

"We are still more than willing to meet her, but we made it very clear that needs to be on our terms… It needs to be on UK soil when she has faced our justice system," she said.

And let's be clear. This was an ambush of bereaved parents who were victims of the woman Trump is trying to protect, for no good reason anyone will admit.

This is a woman who buried her child just under 7 weeks ago. Who placed a lip balm in his coffin because he used them all the time, and broke down stripping the sheets from his bed. Who has seen Harry's twin, Niall, unable to leave the house for grief. A woman for whom "ever since that day, everything hurts".

She and Harry's dad, together with their partners who provided a happy extended family for all their children, have flown almost 6,000 miles and put themselves through countless interviews and media demands for one reason – they promised Harry, as he lay in his coffin, they would get him justice.

Charlotte said: "As soon as you come off camera you break, and you have to pick yourself back up because you know you’re going to the next studio to get your story out again. This has to be as far-reaching as possible because we have to get justice for our son."

Tim saw his boy in the road, being worked on by medics, after getting a call from a friend who worked in the fire brigade. He shudders to think that he could not get close enough to hold his hand. He remembers the bones sticking through his skin.

The fact Trump thought parents who had endured so much, and come so far, would bend in their efforts to give their son what they had promised proves he has no idea how people work. Or what parenting is, for that matter.

Sacoolas has admitted, through a lawyer, that she pulled out of the airbase on the wrong side of the road. She collided with Harry coming the other way on the brow of a hill – neither of them had time to avoid the crash.

Harry's parents have always accepted it was an accident. When police said she could be charged with causing death by dangerous driving – which carries a potential 14-year sentence – they asked for it to be reduced to death by careless driving. The maximum sentence for that is 5 years, likely to be reduced to a fraction of that.

Harry's parents are reasonable, calm, and determined. Yet Trump still refused to send Sacoolas back, and the British government at first told the family there was nothing they could do either.

But there is more to this. This is a story that is starting to stink.

Sacoolas' husband Jonathan was based at RAF Croughton, which is used as a US intelligence hub. She told police that, as his wife, she had diplomatic immunity. While police investigated that, the family left – reportedly pulled out by the US government, which felt his job had been compromised.

But Mr Sacoolas was not registered as a diplomat, which he needs to be for such immunity to be claimed. Even if he had been, it should not cover his wife.

Diplomats register, when in friendly countries, in case they need help. Unless they are not diplomats, or are doing something that is beyond help.

Why would someone be trying to operate under the radar in a friendly country?

Usually, because the ally would not appreciate whatever they are up to. Or because that ally wants to be able to say it knew nothing about what they were up to, if it ever gets out.

And it would all come out, in a court case.

Why was Sacoolas at the airbase, with her two children? Did she work there too? Did she live on-site? Police will be seeking witnesses among its staff for people who saw her get in the car, and in the hours beforehand. They'll want to know if she was drinking, had she slept properly, are there drugs on the base, what state of mind was she in. The children are witnesses, too.

Her lawyer, the Crown Prosecution Service lawyer, the judge and the jury would all need the answers to those questions.

Yet for some reason the UK and US governments both seem reluctant to make it happen. Strangely, no journalists have managed to talk to Sacoolas, find a recent picture, or locate her family.

Harry's family have appealed for witnesses. Not to the crash, but for anyone who saw Sacoolas after the accident. It implies they think there is something to be found about how long she stayed at the scene, and just when she left the country. They do not believe US claims that she's only been back home for 3 weeks.

If Sacoolas was of Latina heritage, she'd be extradited. If she were black, if her husband's job wasn't all that important, there'd be a court date already.

And had Ivanka Trump been mown down by the wife of an unregistered agent operating on US soil, the president would be threatening hellfire missiles at all concerned.

The real diplomats are probably tearing their hair out at Trump's TV stunt, because there is only one reason things are handled this badly. It is because no-one wants their fingerprints on it.

Harry's family are not only using the media to garner public support, they've lawyered up and demanded Foreign Office files on what Mr Sacoolas was up to. A US government lawyer is reportedly in the UK "talking to" officials. So this is probably going to come down to two things.

First, there will come a point when the UK and US governments sacrifice Sacoolas to save themselves.

And second, when they do, that court case will be held in as much secrecy as they can possibly wangle – in the Outer Hebrides, under reporting restrictions, with anonymity orders.

Harry's death has Official Secrets stamped all over it. But officials never realise how long, and how hard, parents will fight for their child. Especially those with a clear sense of what's right, and what's just plain wrong.

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