A police chief has called for restraint amid rising tensions over the death of British teenager Harry Dunn.
It comes with the news that the suspect who claimed diplomatic immunity after being involved in his death will be interviewed under caution by British police in the US.
Anne Sacoolas was allegedly driving on the wrong side of the road when she hit 19-year-old Harry’s motorbike outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on 27 August.
After being told she had diplomatic immunity from prosecution, Sacoolas left the UK on a US air force plane on 15 September without giving an account to police.
On Tuesday the chief constable of Northamptonshire Police confirmed that Sacoolas will be interviewed in the US under caution by his officers once their visas have been granted. The news was greeted by family spokesman Radd Seiger as “further compounding the family’s misery.”
Speaking at a press conference, Nick Adderley, chief constable of Northamptonshire Police called on Seiger to “exercise constraint”.
He said: “I urge the family spokesman to exercise constraint in his commentary as the case moves forward.
“I understand the emotion and I understand the anxiety,
“I also understand the will and the want for answers to questions the family are asking.
“This investigation has not stalled, it has not slowed down.
“The suspect not being in the county clearly frustrates the investigation but it does not stop it.”
Adderley added: “Lawyers have clearly stated that the suspect wants to be personally interviewed by officers from Northamptonshire Police in order for them to see her and the devastation this has caused her and her family.
“She did not want to provide a pre-prepared statement which is her right to do so. We do understand from colleagues in the US that the family is utterly devastated.”
He continued: “I have offered to go and see the family on two occasions now and on both occasions that has not been able to happen.
“The reason for that not taking place is because the information being asked for by the spokesman – who is not their lawyer, by the way – I legally cannot provide.”
When asked if Sacoolas would have been charged by now had she been British he said it was unlikely as on average it takes 16 weeks for a fatal collision file to be put together.
“It is likely that she would have been interviewed by now and the full file may be being talked through with the Crown Prosecution Service but we would not be any further forward,” he said
Dunn’s family have also said they welcome the news but wished the officers travelling to the US “good luck finding her.” Dunn’s parents – Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn – travelled to the US last week in an attempt to put pressure on authorities to return Sacoolas to the UK.
The visit included talks at the White House with Donald Trump, when the family was told that Sacoolas was in a nearby room and prepared to meet them. However, they refused, insisting such an encounter take place in Britain.
Adderley refused to reveal how the Dunn family had learned the suspect had left the UK, but said it had not been a leak from Northamptonshire Police or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
“It was unfortunate but it was legitimate”, he said.
Sacoolas has released a statement saying she is “devastated by the tragic accident.”
Speaking to reporters after the press conference, Adderley said he would not say he has been frustrated with the Foreign Office or the US administration during the course of the investigation.
He said: “I wouldn’t say frustrated. I think the bureaucracy… and finding out diplomatic immunity was applicable to the suspect, has caused frustration in the investigation.
“I want to make the point that we have fast-tracked the investigation – the average time to investigate a road traffic collision is 16 weeks, and we have got the file almost ready for the CPS to make a decision and we have done that in little over eight weeks.
“We can’t complete that file, of course, until we get the account from the suspect, which is what we are working towards – hopefully in the next 10 days.”
Asked if he accepted the force had caused unnecessary trauma to Dunn’s family by delaying telling them that Sacoolas had left the country, Adderley said: “It was very much a judgment call.
“It’s a call the officers investigating the case have to make and when we got the information on the day the waiver had been declined, so the diplomatic immunity was now applicable… it was at that time we were informed of that decision.
“It is a decision I actually support. Is it ideal that they found out through different means? No it’s not ideal.
“But actually, the decision to tell a grieving family… is something we will reflect on and if Charlotte and Tim have been upset by that delay that is something I am prepared to apologise for – but it is a decision I would still support.”
In response to Adderley’s comments, Dunn’s family spokesman Seiger said: “We are glad that he has given a press conference and we will digest what he has had to say and respond.
“But all this noise will only stop when the family sees it is going in the right direction.
“The family have lost all faith and confidence in both the police and the Foreign Office.
“There is a clear breach of the Victim Code here – first and foremost they did not tell the family for a number of weeks that she had gone.
“Nothing was happening until the family and I got the ball rolling and it is no surprise that they are worried about the noise.”