Eddie Mair 4pm - 6pm
Harry Dunn family 'heartbroken' over claims 'killer' fled while Pincher was 'distracted'
5 July 2022, 15:18 | Updated: 5 July 2022, 15:52
A spokesperson for Harry Dunn's family has said the family are "utterly heartbroken" after a Labour MP suggested that the late teen's alleged killer was able to flee the country because Chris Pincher, the minister responsible for the Americas at the time, was "distracted" by a misconduct probe.
Radd Seiger told LBC: "The family and I are utterly heartbroken to hear again, this scandal at the time. When Harry died, this was at the time that this scandal was going on."
He warned the family "could see that something wasn't right" when they tried to meet with Foreign Office officials in the wake of the teenager's death.
"We wanted to see justice done," Mr Seiger added. "We wanted to know was that our government would tried to reverse this as aggressively as they could, to use every means at their disposal to protect their British citizens."
But he said it was clear that "Dominic Raab [then-Foreign Secretary] and his team [including then-Minister for America Chris Pincher] were not going to be the people to sort this issue out."
Mr Pincher was Minister for America when Harry Dunn was knocked off his motorbike and killed near American airbase RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on 27 August 2019.
The suspect in that crash, Anne Sacoolas, left the UK 19 days after the collision and remains in the US claiming diplomatic immunity - despite Dunn's family campaigning for her to face the charges of causing his death by dangerous driving.
Labour MP Emily Thornberry told LBC's Tom Swarbrick this morning that letting suspect Anne Sacoolas leave the UK "was clearly an example of the Foreign Office falling down on the job".
The shadow Attorney General and MP for Islington South suggested Chris Pincher may have been "so distracted" by an investigation into sexual misconduct in 2019 that he may not have been "able to do his job properly".
Chris Pincher dramatically quit his role last week after he was accused of drunkenly groping two men at a private Conservative members' club in London.
It was the second time he resigned from the whips' office after Conservative candidate Alex Story accused him of making an inappropriate advance in 2017.
A spokesperson for Harry Dunn's family, Radd Seiger, said: "After Harry died, this isn't widely known, I offered to meet with officials in the Foreign Office before we launched the campaign. It was the last thing that I wanted to do, to take this family literally around the world weeks after Harry died.
"The immediate response that I got was no, they wouldn't meet with me. And at the time, Chris Pincher, the Minister for the Americas was in post and, I presume, was the man who I should have been meeting with and who refused to meet with me.
"I then replied and set a deadline a few days forward and said if they didn't meet with me, I was then going to go public...
"That deadline came and went, and no meeting. But when we went public, then they started bombarding me. So, the point is that trust we tried to establish with Mr Pincher at the time [was turned away]."
He added; "When we did go and see the Foreign Office, after we went public and obviously Dominic Raab and his team were falling over themselves to meet with me, I could see that something wasn't right.
"What do we know? Still precious little."
Asked how he was "bombarded" by the Foreign Office, Mr Seiger said: "Desperate to come in and meet. Two or three or days after we went public, which again I'll remind everybody, was the last thing we wanted to do.
"We'd already lost Harry, a wonderful member of our community, and there was nothing we could do to bring him back. We wanted to see that justice was going to be done.
"It was too late, everybody understands this word trust, the trust wasn't there, it was too late. We had your support and the support of millions of people around the world, including in the USA, but we had question marks about the very people who we should have been able to count on in Westminster.
"We bear Mrs Sacoolas no ill will, that's not what it's about. It's about the basic principle that justice has to be done. Let's not forget, the real culprits are the American government. They have a lot to answer for.
"But when you need to turn to the government for support you shouldn't have to rely on the Great British media, the Great British public and somebody who knows what he's doing next door to fight for this, you should be able to say to the government, this is your issue, you go and solve it."
Asked whether he feared Mr Pincher was too distracted by scandal at the time to "strongly object" to Washington's plan to remove Mrs Sacoolas from the UK, he said: "All I can tell you is that Dominic Raab a few weeks later went into parliament in response to an urgent question from Emily Thornberry and said that they did strongly object.
"I have never seen a scrap of evidence to support that, and I am now, and the family and you all must be wondering now what was our government doing.
"If Chris Pincher is mired in a scandal at the time, clearly distracted, and that's what I came across when we did get to the FCDO. What tools was our government using to stand up to the might of the ruthless Americans to sort this issue out?
"It was immediately after that meeting with Dominic Raab and Tim, Harry's lovely Dad, just collapsed outside the office that we decided we were heading to Washington to engage with the lovely American people because we had got your [media] support.
"Dominic Raab and his team were not going to be the people to sort this issue out."
Tom questioned Ms Thornberry about her opinion on the Chris Pincher allegations, to which she replied: "Simon McDonald has also said that the investigation into Pincher took place in the summer of 2019.
"You might remember the Harry Dunn case, he was killed on the 27th of August and the woman who was responsible for driving into him - he was on a motorbike and was killed by an American who was driving - she left the country on the 15th of September."
Mr Pincher was appointed Minister of State for Europe and the Americas in July 2019.
"I hope that he wasn't so distracted by the investigation as to not be able to do his job properly, because that was clearly an example of the Foreign Office falling down on the job," Ms Thornberry said.
Tom pressed: "You think he might have been?"
"I think that the Harry Dunn case is one of the great disgraces in recent years of the Foreign Office - that they simply for reasons that we still don't really understand - allowed this woman to leave the country when they shouldn't have," Ms Thornberry replied.
"I don't think they were properly focussed on it, and it might be because the minister responsible for the Americas was distracted by the fact that he was being investigated for what was called inappropriate behaviour."
Sacoolas was charged with causing death by dangerous driving by the CPS, but a Home Office extradition request was rejected by the US State Department in January 2020, something the UK Home Office called a "denial of justice".
On Monday evening, Radd Seiger, a spokesperson for Harry Dunn's family, tweeted: "At the time of Harry Dunn's death, Pincher was the Minister of State for Europe and Americas at FCO and played a key role in the scandal which followed.
"USA said they would remove Mrs Sacoolas unless UK strongly objected. They of course removed her."
The CPS was due to hear the 44-year-old's case at Westminster Magistrates' Court in January this year, but the hearing was vacated at the last minute.
In September Harry's parents reached a "resolution" with Mrs Sacoolas in the civil claim for damages, something that Mr Seiger said came as "considerable relief" to the family.
"The family feel that they can now turn their attention to the criminal case and the long awaited inquest into Harry’s death which will follow the criminal case," he said.
"Harry’s family will never be able to move on from his loss, but they are more determined than ever to continue to move forward."
Chris Pincher's office declined to comment on Ms Thornberry's comments when approached by LBC.