Harry Dunn’s mother speaks of ‘light at end of tunnel’ two years on from crash

·6-min read
Charlotte Charles, mother of Harry Dunn, holding a photograph of him aged 14 (Family Handout/PA) (PA Media)
Charlotte Charles, mother of Harry Dunn, holding a photograph of him aged 14 (Family Handout/PA) (PA Media)

The mother of teenage motorcyclist Harry Dunn has said there is a “light at the end of the tunnel” in her quest for justice two years on from her son’s death.

The 19-year-old was killed when a car crashed into his motorbike outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on August 27 2019.

Charlotte Charles alongside Harry’s father Tim Dunn have spent two years campaigning for 43-year-old suspect Anne Sacoolas to face the UK justice system after diplomatic immunity was asserted on her behalf shortly after the collision.

Sacoolas was able to return to the United States 19 days after the crash and, despite being charged with causing death by dangerous driving, is yet to stand trial after an extradition request was refused by the US State Department in January last year.

Speaking to the PA news agency about how she was feeling on the second anniversary of her son’s death, Mrs Charles said: “I think there’s been better times in the past two years, bizarrely.

“We are all really suffering now. Some of us have reached out for help, others haven’t quite yet.

“It’s all starting to really weigh down on us.”

Harry Dunn was killed in a road crash in August 2019 (Family Handout/PA) (PA Media)
Harry Dunn was killed in a road crash in August 2019 (Family Handout/PA) (PA Media)

The past 12 months have seen the family’s focus switch to a civil claim for damages filed in the US State of Virginia against Sacoolas and her husband, Jonathan.

Through the damages claim, Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn have discovered from Sacoolas’s lawyers that the suspect was able to leave the UK due to “issues of security”, and that she and her husband were both employed by the US State Department.

Asked what it had been like to hear the information in various court hearings in the US, Mrs Charles said: “I think you just feel totally let down.

“You expect to learn a lot about why she had left from your own Government really – you don’t expect to hear it, or hear about the position she held, from her lawyers or your own lawyers.

“You just feel a little bit deflated because we’ve been asking so many questions right from the off – all we’ve said is we just want the truth.

Charlotte Charles (left) and Tim Dunn travelled to the US to be deposed as part of their civil claim for damages (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)
Charlotte Charles (left) and Tim Dunn travelled to the US to be deposed as part of their civil claim for damages (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)

“It’s been like pulling teeth. Every bit of information we’ve managed to reap… it’s been so extremely difficult extracting that information.”

The damages claim almost saw Mrs Charles and Mr Dunn face-to-face with Anne Sacoolas for the first time until the suspect’s deposition was postponed at the 11th hour.

Mrs Charles said: “Tim and I thought we had prepared ourselves as best as we possibly could have done to be in the same room as Anne Sacoolas.

“It was never going to be ideal.

“It wasn’t going to be a situation where we could ask her questions, it wasn’t a situation where we were going to be able to react to anything she said.

We are all really suffering now. Some of us have reached out for help, others haven't quite yet

Charlotte Charles, Harry's mother

“It was mixed emotions because we had lost, for now, a pathway to hearing from the horse’s mouth… what happened that night.

“But absolutely, it was relief also.”

Despite the revelations in the civil claim, the family’s attention swiftly returned to the pending criminal case, as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced the path had been cleared for a remote trial to take place back in June this year.

“We’ve grabbed hold of that,” Mrs Charles said.

“We’re hoping that we hear from the Crown Prosecution Service very soon.

“We’re very confident now, through meetings that have gone on behind the scenes, that it’s not if Anne Sacoolas faces the UK justice system, it’s just a matter of how and when it will be.”

The family scattered Harry’s ashes in his favourite place, Portland, last year (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Archive)
The family scattered Harry’s ashes in his favourite place, Portland, last year (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Archive)

Although two years have passed since Harry died, Mrs Charles said her family had still not been able to grieve their loss.

“It doesn’t get easier,” Mrs Charles said.

“I think you eventually, I suppose, learn to live with it.

“But I still don’t really feel we’ve been afforded the time yet to get used to living with the scars that all of this has left behind.

“I fear that there probably are still more scars yet to be formed.”

An emotional Mrs Charles continued: “You don’t get used to not holding your child.

“Your love for that child, although they’ve gone, your love for that child never goes.

“It never weakens, it never diminishes, it’s still as strong as it was on the day they were born.

“It’s not getting any easier for me in the sense of looking at photos. There’s canvases up on the wall at home that we had made when we first lost Harry.

“It’s absolutely unreal how often you can walk through the same room of your house that you’ve lived in for 10 years, and actually not look at the walls.

“I’m very much looking forward to the day that I can get out all of the hundreds of photos I’ve taken of Harry over the years, and sit with a wonderful joy in my heart, and a big smile on my face, and remember him the way he should be remembered and the way he deserves to be remembered, and not have the campaign shrouding all of that.

“Would I have changed anything? Would I have not run with the campaign? Absolutely not.

We absolutely can see a light at the end of the tunnel and we will get there

Charlotte Charles, Harry's mother

“If we hadn’t have fought, there’s a much larger chance of this happening to another family.

“I wouldn’t change anything, but I am really looking forward to the day when our fight is over.”

Mrs Charles said she was hopeful that a resolution in her quest for justice was not far away – and spoke of her family’s pride at various milestones, such as closing the diplomatic immunity “loophole” and being invited to an audience with President Trump at the White House.

Mrs Charles continued: “I wouldn’t be fighting if I didn’t think it was going to be worth it.

“There’s definitely light at the end of the tunnel.

“We owe it to Harry to rebuild our lives, we owe it to Niall, Harry’s twin, to show him that life can be lived again.

“We absolutely can see a light at the end of the tunnel and we will get there.”

Mrs Charles told PA that she had not made any substantial plans to mark the anniversary, and wanted to spend the day with family and friends.

“I’m just going to give myself to Harry’s memory,” she said.

“I’m just going to take it as it comes, draw as much energy as I can from family and friends around me.

“We’ll certainly talk about Harry – we’ve always maintained that we will never allow him to become that elephant in the room.

“But the date, although it holds a little bit more poignancy, the reality is every day is still damn difficult.”

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