U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for the return of the wife of an American diplomat who fled after killing a teenage motorcyclist in a traffic accident six weeks ago. The case has sparked growing outrage in the U.K. after it was revealed this weekend that 42-year-old American Anne Sacoolas claimed diplomatic immunity and returned to the U.S. in the middle of the police investigation into the Aug. 27 collision that claimed the life of 19-year-old Harry Dunn. Sacoolas, whose family had been in the U.K. for several weeks, was driving on the wrong side of the road near a military base operated by the U.S. Air Force 75 miles northwest of London when she collided with Dunn, who was riding a motorcycle.
Sacoolas met with the local police after the incident and assured authorities that she was not planning on leaving the country. The U.K. government submitted a formal request on Sept. 5 to the U.S. Embassy to waive immunity in the case, but the request was denied a week later. It wasn’t reported that Sacoolas had left the country until several weeks after, prompting outrage from the family of the victim and calls for the American’s return by British leaders.
“I do not think that it can be right to use the process of diplomatic immunity for this type of purpose,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an interview with the BBC Monday, “and I hope that Anne Sacoolas will come back and will engage properly with the processes of laws that carried out in this country. If we can’t resolve it, then of course I will be raising it myself personally with the White House,” he said.
The Dunn family appealed directly to President Donald Trump. “President Trump, please listen,” Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, said in an interview with Sky News. “We’re a family in ruin. We’re broken. We can’t grieve. Please, please, let her get back on a plane, come back to the U.K. … We could understand how she’s feeling, but more importantly, she needs to face justice, see what she’s done.”
Diplomats and their families living abroad are protected from arrest and prosecution in almost all cases under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The diplomat’s home country can waive immunity, but very rarely does so. The U.S. Embassy, which has declined to confirm Sacoolas’ identity, said the issue had been discussed at senior levels and that it was unlikely to waive immunity.