Donald Trump was today branded ‘oafish and insulting’ as he defended the wife of a US spy who killed a British teenager while driving on the wrong side of the road by saying: ‘It happens’.
The US President has revolted the bereft family of Harry Dunn who accused him of ‘justifying’ Anne Sacoolas’ mistake with ‘throw-away’ claims British roads are so confusing for Americans that even he has driven the wrong way on them.
Sacoolas allegedly hit 19-year-old motorcyclist Harry with her Volvo SUV on August 27 outside a US spy station in Northamptonshire after driving on the wrong side of the road for up to 400 yards.
Days later she was spirited from UK soil on a state-sponsored private jet from America’s air base in Suffolk, RAF Mildenhall, protected by her husband Jonathan’s diplomatic immunity.
Mr Trump said: ‘Those are the opposite roads. That can happen. I won’t say it ever happened to me, but it did. When you get used to driving on our system and you’re all of a sudden on the other system, where you’re driving, it happens. You have to be careful.’
Radd Seiger, the spokesman for the Dunn family told MailOnline today: ‘Trump’s comments are an attempted justification for what Anne Sacoolas did. They are insensitive, clumsy, oafish and insulting. We are horrified by his words and this has just brought more pain to the Dunn family.
‘Trump has just inflamed the situation. He’s caused more hurt and made the matter worse. His choice of words is appalling’.
In a further blunder, Trump ended his extraordinary press conference in Washington last night by displaying a ‘secret’ briefing note that revealed the White House has already decided her immunity will never be waived – despite a personal plea from Boris Johnson in a call to the Oval Office this week.
His pocket-sized crib sheet, written by the US National Security Council, said: ‘The spouse of the US government employee will not return to the United Kingdom. The spouse… will have to consider whether to make herself available for questioning by British authorities’.
Reacting to the slip-up, Harry’s mother Charlotte Graham said: ‘I’ve seen it [the note] – we’re just disgusted’ and in a message for Mr Trump she added: ‘He must know exactly where she is. I would urge him to put her on a plane back to the UK to face our justice system here, face us, and talk to us.’.
Ms Charles continued: ‘With Donald Trump saying yesterday that every driver has driven on the wrong side of the road at some point – perhaps they have. But not every driver has travelled the distance that Anne Sacoolas did and taken the life of a 19-year-old who was completely and utterly innocent. So to us, although it’s a personal issue for us, it is more of a unique case than just having accidentally driven on the wrong side of the road so I’m not very happy about those throw-away comments’.
Charlotte Graham, whose son Harry Dunn died six weeks ago, says she is ‘disgusted’ that Trump will not hand over alleged killer Anne Sacoolas, who hit him with her car while on the wrong side of the road
Donald Trump appeared to defend the woman for hitting and killing a British teenager with her car saying: ‘It happens’
Mr Trump’s bombshell briefing reveals the US has already told Britain she will not be returned to the UK to face justice
Harry, 19, was killed n a car crash in Northamptonshire allegedly caused by the diplomat’s wife
How was Anne Sacoolas able to flee back to the US as British police investigated?
Anne Sacoolas (pictured on her wedding day in 2003) was travelling on the wrong side of the road for 400 yards
Anne Sacoolas appears to have been able to use a loophole to claim diplomatic immunity after allegedly killing Harry Dunn in a crash involving her Volvo SUV.
It was believed that diplomatic immunity only applied to US officials – and their families – if they worked at the US Embassy in London.
But it appears that because of the work done at RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire – a US intelligence hub in Britain – the same applies there.
Sky News claims an immunity deal between the UK and US there started in 1994.
As a result Northamptonshire Police were planning to get Anne Sacoolas to sign a ‘waiver of diplomatic immunity’ – but she, her husband and their children fled.
Harry’s family claim that Mrs Sacoolas had promised to work with police and admitted culpability.
His mother Charlotte said: ‘We’ve got no answers. We’ve got nothing from her to say that she’s remorseful We’re appalled, disgusted’.
Last night in Washington Mr Trump acknowledged that ‘a tragedy occurred’ and described suspect Anne Sacoolas – who he did not name – as ‘driving on the wrong side of the road’. He then suggested he had done the same too in the UK, where he has two golf courses.
But also said he will try to arrange a meeting between the family of a teenage car crash victim and the US diplomat’s wife who was the driver, which Harry’s mother Charlotte described as a ‘grain of hope’.
The US President admitted there is ‘tremendous anger’ over Harry Dunn’s death and urged the families to meet ‘so there can be some healing’.
Mr Trump described the death of the 19-year-old as a ‘terrible accident’ and said that Anne Sacoolas, 42, was driving on the wrong side of the road when she hit him.
But he made no commitment to waive her diplomatic immunity, or return her to the UK to face further police questioning.
Speaking at the White House, the President said: ‘We’re going to speak to the wife of the diplomat…and see what we can come up with so that there can be some healing.’
He stressed that he ‘hates this case’ and admitted it was ‘a very, very complex issue because we are talking about diplomatic immunity’.
His intervention caused even more anger.
Family spokesman Radd Seiger said: ‘We are pleased that he’s involved and said that he was going to speak to Mrs Sacoolas. Trump could have gone about expressing his views in a better way but I guess that’s him.
‘We remain focused on getting justice for Harry and are still prepared to talk to President Trump to make this happen’.
The family of Harry Dunn (left with blonde hair, his mother Charlotte Charles, and right his father Mr Dunn) have said a meeting with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab over the death of their son felt like a ‘publicity stunt’ – as they confirmed they were launching civil action against the suspect in the case
Donald Trump was asked publicly about Harry Dunn’s death and the suspicion that he was killed by an American spy’s wife and addressed it for the first time, calling it ‘a very complex issue.’ He said he wanted the woman and the bereaved family to meet for ‘some healing’. Boris Johnson has called him urging him to hand her over
The President’s intervention comes after Harry’s family spoke of their ‘disappointment and anger’ following a meeting with the Foreign Secretary. Harry’s parents were left in tears after spending 45 minutes speaking to Dominic Raab about pushing for the return of Mrs Sacoolas.
Charlotte Charles, Harry’s mother, was visibly distressed as she told how she felt they had been let down by the Government, branding the meeting little more than ‘a publicity stunt’.
She and Harry’s father, Tim Dunn, said they had their hopes raised by the prospect of an audience with the Foreign Secretary.
But they said Mr Raab told them that Mrs Sacoolas has diplomatic immunity and that it is highly unlikely the US will ever grant a waiver so she can return to the UK to face questioning.
Speaking at a press conference in Westminster after the meeting, Mrs Charles said: ‘I can’t really see the point as to why we were invited to see Dominic Raab. We are no further forward than where we were this time last week.
‘Part of me is feeling like it was just a publicity stunt on the UK Government side to show they are trying to help.’
Harry Dunn’s mother Charlotte weeps as she and her family speak to the media following a meeting with foreign secretary Dominic Raab yesterday afternoon
Harry Dunn (pictured, right, and, left, with his mother) died following a crash near the RAF airbase in Northamptonshire
Why are Americans at RAF Croughton in the UK?
RAF Croughton is an air base that is currently being leased by the US government.
It houses the 422nd Air Base Group, but is also being used by spies working for the Joint Intelligence Operations Center Europe (JIOCEUR).
JIOCEUR is a military intelligence analysis center which is part of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The agency is an external branch of government which provides intelligence to ‘warfighters, defense policymakers and force planners in the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community’.
The entrance to RAF Croughton is shown. Sacoolas was exiting the base when she turned onto the wrong side of the road on August 27
It provides intelligence information for the U.S. European and African commands as well as NATO.
The Center is based at RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire but, following the 2015 announcement that it was to close in 2023, many of the positions were moved to Croughton.
There are plans to consolidate it with the U.S. Africa Command to make a larger station at Croughton that will be known as the Joint Intelligence Analysis Complex – a major hub for US intelligence gathering.
According to locals in Croughton, the communications center – where Sacoolas’ husband is said to work – is a ‘site within the site’ which has its own separate security.
The US government is reconsidering the relocation after being met with resistance from lawmakers who said it would be too expensive.
A file photo of a geodesic dome covering radar scanners and satellite dishes at the base. It is an intelligence gathering hub which the US Defense Intelligence Agency uses to collect information from Europe and Africa
Boris Johnson has urged Mr Trump to intervene to ensure Mrs Sacoolas, who was driving a SUV Volvo in the collision with Harry, faces justice.
The Prime Minister spoke to the President last night to ask him to ‘reconsider the US position’, a Downing Street spokesman said.
The parents said they felt they now had no choice but to begin their own legal action. They have instructed Geoffrey Robertson QC and human rights lawyer Mark Stephens to begin their fight, and are launching a civil case against Mrs Sacoolas in America.
Mrs Charles, 44, said: ‘We will still keep going. There’s still fire in our bellies to continue.’
Becoming tearful, she described the ‘nausea’ she feels ‘waking up each morning and realising you have lost your boy’.
Harry’s father said he felt ‘extremely let down’ by the Government, adding: ‘I am so disappointed. He was a beautiful lad.’
Harry was on his way to his father’s house in Brackley, Northamptonshire, when he was involved in a collision with Mrs Sacoolas’s car on August 27.
The diplomat’s wife had reportedly pulled out of RAF Croughton, a US intelligence hub in Britain, on the wrong side of the road and collided with the teenager’s motorbike at the brow of a hill. Harry suffered horrific injuries and died in hospital later that night.
The crash took place in August outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire (pictured) – a US intelligence hub in Britain
Harry is pictured with his mother, Charlotte, in an undated photograph provided by the family
Mrs Sacoolas, whose husband is understood to work in intelligence at the base, was initially co-operative with police.
But Northamptonshire Police were later told she and her family had left the country and that she was citing diplomatic immunity. Requests for the US embassy to grant a waiver have so far been refused.
Radd Seiger, who is representing the family, said the Foreign Office tried to prevent him from attending the meeting in London yesterday afternoon.
It was only when the Dunns said they did not want to proceed without him that he was allowed in.
He said when Mr Raab spoke to the American government they simply reiterated, ‘No. You can’t have her back. She’s protected by immunity.’
The lawyer said they would now take their fight to Washington and invited Mr Trump to meet them.
Mr Raab said: ‘We are continuing to press the US authorities for their co-operation to ensure the police can pursue this case unimpeded and to allow Harry’s family to get justice.’