Harry Dunn’s mother has marked the anniversary of her son’s death by saying his name is “forever written into history” – and vowed to carry on his family’s fight for justice.
Charlotte Charles said she pledged to do whatever it takes to get justice for her 19-year-old son just before he died on August 27 last year.
A year on from his death, Mrs Charles told the PA news agency the whole family was “very, very proud” of their efforts to ensure no family would “suffer like we had” after a loophole was closed which had allowed Mr Dunn’s alleged killer to claim diplomatic immunity.
The wife of a US intelligence official, Anne Sacoolas, claimed immunity following a road crash outside a US military base in Northamptonshire which resulted in the teenage motorcyclist’s death.
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.
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, Mrs Charles told PA: “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 told PA: “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.”
South Northamptonshire MP Andrea Leadsom met with members of Mr Dunn’s family on the anniversary – and appealed directly to Donald Trump to ensure a virtual trial.
Speaking to the media in Brackley, where dozens of bikers from around the country gathered to pay their own tribute, Mrs Leadsom said: “Something terrible happened and the person who caused Harry’s death has walked away with the help and support of the United States government.
“And that simply cannot be allowed to stand.”
Adding that President Trump had met Mr Dunn’s parents so knew what they are going through, the MP told reporters: “I want to make a real appeal to you Mr President – please give this family closure
“Give them the virtual trial and the justice that they are demanding for their son Harry.”
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.
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.”