After her son Harry Dunn died in a crash, Charlotte Charles held him in her arms and promised she would get justice for the teenager. Since then, the family’s campaign has seen them tackle the UK and US governments and taken them to the White House. One year on, Ms Charles talks about her “larger than life” son and her determination to keep her word.
“It’s still very painful every day”, says Charlotte Charles.
Her son, 19-year-old Harry Dunn, died on 27 August 2019 when his motorbike was hit by a car driving on the wrong side of the road outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire.
The suspect, US citizen Anne Sacoolas, left the UK, citing diplomatic immunity.
“It seems only a few days ago that I heard his motorbike, did his washing, cooked for him,” Ms Charles says.
“It seems like only a few days since I held him and seems like only a few days ago that I was standing next to his lifeless body, promising him that I would get him justice,” said Ms Charles.
“And then you start thinking about the campaign and how much we’ve been through and how many trips to London and the States, and the beginning of all of that seems like such a long time ago, sometimes feels like it wasn’t even us, like it’s a different life, a different world.”
‘I promised to get him justice’
To those who knew him best, Harry Dunn was a funny and caring young man who was just starting to come into his own.
He had a passion for motorbikes, a sweet tooth and loved finding ways to make those around him smile.
Life without him still feels unreal, his mum says.
“He was just a larger than life, a free-spirited soul,” she says.
“His sense of humour was great.”
Ms Charles and Harry’s father, Tim Dunn, say they ask themselves “What would Harry do?” whenever they are struggling.
This gives them the inspiration to carry on, says Ms Charles.
“There’s absolutely no way Harry would have taken this lying down.
“Heaven forbid this had happened to any of his siblings, a friend or a fellow biker.
“He’d have come out fighting tooth and nail to make sure justice was done.”
‘What would Harry do?’
Ms Charles says the family was “not that political” before Harry’s death, but the past year has been a steep learning curve.
“I think everyone was hoping we would just go away,” she says.
Aided by family spokesman Radd Seiger, the family has spearheaded a transatlantic campaign and started legal action against the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Mr Seiger, who has also helped the family with their legal challenge, said: “I hope with Charlotte’s courage and determination, that she’ll inspire other people when they feel trodden on, to not take it lying down.”
In the past 12 months the family have celebrated some successes in their campaign, including Mrs Sacoolas being charged with death by dangerous driving and the closure of the loophole that allowed her to leave the country.
“That was monumental for us,” Ms Charles says. “There’s no way we could ever have sat by and allowed this to happen to another family, we did not want to live with the fact it could happen to anyone else.”
Mrs Sacoolas was formally charged with death by dangerous driving in December but an extradition request was rejected by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
A spokesman for the prime minister said the refusal was viewed by the UK government to be “a denial of justice”.
‘Every day is a constant battle’
Ms Charles says the fight to bring Mrs Sacoolas back to the UK has resulted in the family feeling like they’ve “been to hell and back many times” as they take on both the UK and US governments.
However, she says, due to the need to campaign they “have not been afforded the luxury of grieving.”
“You can go through every emotion in the space of five minutes.
“It comes in waves many, many times a day… it’s extremely hard to try to live with and we haven’t started rebuilding our lives yet because we haven’t got that closure or justice.
“Every day is a constant battle.”
The family are adamant they will continue to fight for justice for Harry and will not stop until Mrs Sacoolas has gone through the UK justice system.
“When we’ve got justice then we’ll properly grieve and we’ll celebrate him too, the big life, the amount of life that boy had in him.
“We want to leave him a legacy.”
A two-day judicial review hearing at the High Court in November is scheduled, with Mr Dunn’s parents claiming the foreign secretary “obstructed justice” by allowing Mrs Sacoolas to leave the UK.
The Foreign Office maintains it acted lawfully at all times.
On Tuesday, it was announced that a trial held virtually or in absentia was being considered by Britain’s attorney general.
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