The family of a British teenager killed when his motorbike was struck by a car driven by a US diplomat’s wife have demanded to know whether the UK was told she was an alleged former CIA officer, and if this gave her extra protection from extradition.
Charlotte Charles, the mother of Harry Dunn – who died in August in a crash near the Northamptonshire airbase where Anne Sacoolas’s husband worked as an intelligence officer – said the family were furious after hearing of Sacoolas’s alleged past.
Charles said: “How could [the British government] do this to us? We have thrown ourselves into building relationships with the government despite the terrible way they were treating us. We believe in giving people a second chance. But I am livid today and my family are full of anger.”
She said the latest reports in the Mail on Sunday about Sacoolas’s alleged previous status as a CIA operative reminded her of the days just after her son’s death when she claimed the government “were trying to kick this all under the carpet”.
The family’s spokesman Radd Seiger has called for a public inquiry into the matter, saying Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, did not mention the suspect’s reported past as a CIA officer.
Seiger said the family wanted to know if cabinet ministers had known of Sacoolas’s alleged past employment, and whether this played a role in the US determination to reject the UK request for her extradition.
The family, despite numerous meetings with Foreign Office staff, were not told Sacoolas had worked for the CIA, although it had been widely reported that her husband was a CIA operative at RAF Croughton. The UK government has declined to comment on whether Sacoolas served as a senior CIA staff member. She was not declared as such when she and her husband moved to the UK.
An FCO spokesman said: “Anne Sacoolas was notified to us as a spouse with no official role.” She had diplomatic immunity under her husband’s role, which ended when she returned to the US.
Seiger said: “Something has clearly gone very badly wrong and it is no wonder that Boris Johnson has not seen it fit to meet with the parents and I. He is the leader of the team and has been nowhere to be seen other than making wholly inappropriate and unhelpful public comments. It is a disgrace that he has not met with us when even Donald Trump has.”
Seiger said it was “high time that the nation can see with full transparency whether or not the government prioritised protecting the identity of the Sacoolas family over the welfare and rights of Harry’s family. The US government told the FCO that they were going to remove Anne Sacoolas from the UK unless the UK had any strong objections. Still to this day, the family have seen no evidence that the UK did indeed raise any such objections and indeed fear that they waved her off at the airport.”
Adam Wagner, one of the lawyers acting for the Dunn family, said the FCO needed “to answer whether it knew Sacoolas was CIA at the time of Harry’s death, and whether the US used her status as a family member to take advantage of the ‘anomaly’ whereby family members are said to have more immunity than diplomats at the base”. The Dunn lawyers dispute the existence of this claimed anomaly.
Wagner added: “The Foreign Office have refused so far to disclose any information or documents about the discussions with the USA and the police after Harry died. The family are pushing hard for disclosures and have made an application for information and documents.”
The FCO said it was examining a freedom of information request by the family lawyers. The family believe the documents may reveal the government did not insist Sacoolas remained in the country, partly because of her past status as a CIA officer.
“How could they keep this from us?” Charles said. “We are determined to make sure that this never happens to another family again. I do not know what the government think they are doing or why they are treating us the way they are. We will not rest until Anne Sacoolas is back and we have secured the safety of the nation in so far as so-called diplomats committing crimes here in the UK is concerned.”
Asked about the reports of Sacoolas’s CIA work, the housing minister, Robert Jenrick, told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday show: “I don’t know the reasons why the US have turned down our requests so far to extradite her. She needs to return to the UK.
“She should face justice, and I think it’s a terrible situation – I think we all agree on that – for the family. Not only have they lost their child but they’re not seeing somebody brought to justice for that.”
Speaking earlier on the same show, Jeremy Hunt castigated the US for its refusal to send Sacoolas to the UK, and said a CIA link could be relevant.
The former foreign secretary said: “It may have a bearing on it, and I don’t know the truth of these things because I’m not foreign secretary any more, but I still think it is totally and utterly unacceptable that she is not facing justice in the UK.
“And if anyone is questioning that, I think we just need to ask what would have happened if the boot had been on the other foot, if a British diplomat had been involved in a road accident in the United States where someone had died and had fled on a private plane back to the UK and was evading justice – I don’t think President Trump would stand for that for one second, and I don’t think Britain would have behaved in that way.”
Hunt added: “And I would just say to the United States – and I’m someone who’s the strongest supporter of the special relationship, I think in a very uncertain world the democracies of the world need to stand together – but if we’re going to be in an alliance, we need to treat each other like allies, and that is not happening.”
The government has spent months attempting to persuade the US to return Sacoolas, who faces a charge of causing death by dangerous driving after the car she was driving stuck Dunn’s motorbike outside RAF Croughton.