What could be more painful than losing a child?
As the father of four kids, aged from 7 to 26, I can say without a second’s hesitation: nothing.
It’s the one thing, I imagine, which unites almost every parent – that terrifying, heart-wrenching, hidden fear of ever having to bury someone you brought into the world.
I physically shudder at even having to think about it now, as I write this column.
It’s also an unspoken truism that once you become a parent, you also become infinitely more sensitive to stories about other parents losing children.
For those poor people are living the nightmare we all hope and pray never happens to us.
Charlotte and Tim Dunn are those parents now, living that nightmare.
Their 19-year-old son Harry died in a road traffic accident on August 27 when his Kawasaki motorbike collided with a car close to an air force base in Northamptonshire, in the east midlands of England.
Harry Dunn, 19, top left and right, died in an accident in August when the wife of a US diplomat was driving on the wrong side of the road and mowed him down on his motorcycle. His parents Charlotte and Tim Dunn, above, now face the nightmare of life without their son and the possibility that the person responsible will never face justice after claiming diplomatic immunity
Despite his relative youth, he was a very experienced rider, but had no chance when he rounded a bend and was confronted with a car driver on the wrong side of the road.
In the horrific crash that ensued, Harry suffered terrible injuries and died in hospital.
The sequence of events is not in doubt – British police say they have studied CCTV evidence that confirm what happened.
But what IS in doubt is whether the car driver who allegedly caused this accident will ever be held to account for it.
The crash occurred a few hundred yards from a Royal Air Force base controlled by the US Air Force, and the driver of the car was a woman named Anne Sacoolas, the American wife of a U.S. diplomat.
Anne Sacoolas, above, the American wife of a U.S. diplomat, has skipped the UK and returned to America – allegedly at the advice of the US embassy – rather than face responsibility for the accident she caused
Police believe she pulled out of the base where her husband Jonathan works – it is believed he is in fact a spy – drove on the wrong side of the road, and hit Harry Dunn on his motorbike.
But after initially signalling that she would co-operate in the investigation, Ms Sacoolas suddenly disappeared.
It turned out she flew back to the U.S. after claiming diplomatic immunity, reportedly on the advice of the U.S. Embassy.
Under the 1961 Vienna Convention, diplomats and their family members are typically immune from prosecution in their host country.
So, Ms Sacoolas has exercised her right under this agreement to flee Britain, and justice, and has done so with the full backing of the United States authorities that have so far resisted calls from British police to waive her immunity, as they are empowered to do in exceptional circumstances.
This means that Harry Dunn’s parents, already suffering the unimaginable agony of losing their son, are now facing a second horror – the likelihood that the person who caused their pain may never face any accountability for their actions.
It’s a scandal that shames America.
As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said today: ‘I do not think it can be right to use the process of diplomatic immunity for this kind of purpose. I hope that Anne Sacoolas will come back and will engage properly with the processes of laws as they are carried out in this country.’
The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke out today to encourage Ms Sacoolas to return to Britain and face the legal consequences
Harry’s family were understandably more emotive in their condemnation.
‘We are utterly shocked and appalled that somebody is allowed to just get on a plane and go home and avoid our justice system,’ said his mother Charlotte.
‘We can’t let our son die and nothing be answered for,’ said Tim Dunn.
No, they can’t.
And nor should they.
Diplomatic immunity has always struck me as an anachronistic nonsense. If you break the law in another country, whoever you are, then you should face justice by the laws of that country.
Why should the wife of a diplomat be able to allegedly crash into a young motorcyclist, causing his death, and get away with it?
Nobody is suggesting that Anne Sacoolas, 42, deliberately drove on the wrong side of the road, or intended to kill Harry Dunn.
In all probability she temporarily forgot she wasn’t in America, where cars drive on the opposite side of the road (right, not left) to Britain.
If that is the case then there would, I’m sure, be some sympathy for her. I’ve inadvertently driven on the wrong side of the road in America several times, thankfully only for a few seconds, and never to such catastrophic effect. It’s usually happened when I’ve first got back to the U.S. after months driving in Britain.
But we don’t know if that’s what happened here because Ms Sacoolas has vanished before she could even be interviewed about the incident.
And that dreadful act of moral cowardice has eroded any semblance of sympathy I might have ever had for her.
This is a woman who has children of her own – one of them was in the back of her car when this crash took place.
They attend a fee-paying school, Winchester House, where coincidentally, Tim Dunn worked as a caretaker.
Ms Sacoolas’ own children attend a fee-paying school, Winchester House, above, where coincidentally, the father of the boy she killed worked as a caretaker
How would SHE feel if someone had killed one of HER kids in such a situation?
How would Americans feel if this was a British diplomat’s wife in the U.S. who killed a young American boy and then hopped on a plane back to Britain to avoid justice?
And how would President Trump react if he heard that news?
I think we all know the answers to those three questions.
There would rightly be outrage over it, just as there is in Britain right now.
And that’s why I now urge President Trump to reverse this terrible decision and waive Ms Sacoolas’ immunity.
He should compel her to return to Britain, co-operate fully with the police, and suffer whatever legal consequences her actions merit after the investigation is completed.
Otherwise, what’s the point of our two countries much-vaunted ‘Special Relationship’ if someone can allegedly kill a teenager and escape any form of justice in this way?
It’s not just a matter of justice, either.
It’s a matter of honor, and giving the poor grieving Dunn family some closure on their awful ordeal.
‘My son was take from us at such a tender age doing what he loved doing the most in life’ said Tim Dunn. ‘We call on the driver and the American authorities to have her come back to the UK to face the legal consequences of her dangerous driving that night. It is no one’s interests for her not to do so, and would set a terrible precedent if she does not return.’
The parents of Harry Dunn appealed to Donald Trump to intervene
Charlotte Dunn added: ‘I bear the other driver no ill will. She must be suffering too given what she did. We are not out to get her put behind bars. If that’s what the justice system ends up, doing then we can’t stop that but we’re not out to do that, we’re out to try and get some peace for ourselves. President Trump, please listen. We are a family in ruin. We’re broken. We can’t grieve. Please, please let her get back on a plane.’
What tremendous dignity the Dunns have shown, in the face of such tremendous suffering.
And what marked contrast to sniveling Anne Sacoolas secretly scuttling off back home to avoid being made to answer for her actions.
Shame on her for doing that.
Shame on the U.S. authorities for allowing her to do that.
And shame on President Trump if he doesn’t now do the right thing, and send her back.