Boris Johnson risked inflaming a spat with Donald Trump today as he accused the US of ‘ruthlessly’ stopping a diplomat’s wife from facing justice over a fatal car crash.
The American authorities have made clear that Anne Sacoolas will not be returned to the UK to face allegations she hit and killed a British teenager while driving on the wrong side of the road.
Asked about the case this afternoon, Mr Johnson said invoking diplomatic immunity in the case was ‘inappropriate’.
‘In my experience, America is very, very reluctant to allow its nationals to be tried overseas, and is absolutely ruthless in enforcing the code of diplomatic immunity,’ he said.
‘I must say, I don’t think it was appropriate for that provision to be used in this case.
‘I made that point to the president, and he is sympathetic.
Boris Johnson (pictured on a visit to a school in Beaconsfield today) risked inflaming a spat with Donald Trump as he accused the US of ‘ruthlessly’ stopping a diplomat’s wife from facing justice over a fatal car crash
Speaking to reporters in Washington overnight, Mr Trump said he had a ‘good conversation’ with the PM. ‘We are trying to work something out,’ he added.
‘I think we’ve just got to keep working on that and see what we can do to get justice for Harry Dunn and his family.’
The comments came after Mr Trump claimed the UK and US are ‘trying to work something out’.
Mr Dunn’s parents are flying to the US this weekend in the hope of meeting President Trump.
His parents Charlotte Charles and Timm Dunn will arrive in New York on Sunday and launch a media blitz with primetime interviews with America’s three main TV networks – ABC, NBC and CBS.
Meanwhile, Britain’s former Ambassador to Ireland, Sir Ivor Roberts suggested Britain could declare the US Ambassador to Britain, Woody Johnson, persona non grata as a result of the affair.
Ambassador Johnson is a close friend of the US President and sending him home would be a significant escalation in the row.
The president attempted to cool tensions that were stoked when he defended the Ms Sacoolas, who claimed diplomatic immunity and was spirited out of Britain on a state-sponsored private jet after the crash.
Mr Trump caused fury yesterday and was called ‘oafish and insulting’ by Harry’s family when he suggested Americans driving on the wrong side of the road in the UK was a common mistake, saying: ‘It happens.’
The billionaire, who owns two golf courses in Scotland and one in Ireland, then admitted he had done it himself.
His incendiary intervention, just hours after Boris Johnson called him to appeal for the diplomatic immunity to be waived, sparked questions about whether the Special Relationship still exists.
But speaking to reporters in Washington overnight – after his extraordinary comments – Mr Trump said he had a ‘good conversation’ with the PM. ‘We are trying to work something out,’ he added.
Downing Street had raised the hopes of the family of 19-year-old Harry Dunn, announcing that Mr Johnson had spoken to the President and ‘urged him to reconsider the US position’ in a phone call.
Hopes raised: Downing Street revealed in a statement last night that Boris Johnson (pictured today) had urged Donald Trump to ‘reconsider’ over the death of Harry Dunn
But Mr Trump dashed those hopes in a press conference just 46 minutes later on Wednesday night, joking about driving on the wrong side himself and saying: ‘It happens’.
To make matters worse, the President accidentally revealed a briefing note which stated that ‘the spouse of the US government employee will not return to the United Kingdom’.
Mr Trump was pressed again about the situation as he left Washington DC for a rally in Mineapolis last night.
Asked whether the Ms Sacoolas had been spoken to, he said: ‘They are in the process of being spoken to…
‘I had a conversation with Boris Johnson yesterday, a good one.
‘We are talking about diplomatic immunity, a very interesting situation.
‘We are trying to work something out.’
Ministers have been staying tight-lipped on the row, apparently keen to avoid a public meltdown that could prevent the the issue being resolved behind the scenes.
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom, the Dunn family’s local MP, tweeted last night that she was ‘pleased’ the council had agreed to ‘extending road signs around the American base, making clear which side of the road to drive on’.
However, she has not done any interviews on the subject since Monday.
In contrast MPs and the family have made no secret of their anger.
Labour’s Wes Streeting said of Mr Trump’s comments yesterday: ‘These are crass and insensitive comments that will inflict further pain and suffering on a grieving family.
‘Mrs Sacoolas should return to the UK immediately to provide answers as to what happened to Harry Dunn.
‘The Special Relationship between our two countries has been the cornerstone of our mutual defence and prosperity for nearly a century. President Trump continually undermines that relationship.’
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also took aim at Mr Trump, saying he would ‘mount legal action’ in the US if he were Prime Minister.
‘For somebody to be killed in our country and the person who did it to flee to the United States and then claim diplomatic immunity is completely unacceptable,’ he said.
Mr Dunn’s family today branded the President ‘insensitive, clumsy and oafish’ and said they were ‘horrified by his words’.
Harry Dunn (pictured), 19, was killed n a car crash in Northamptonshire allegedly caused by the wife of an American diplomat
The parents of Mr Dunn are demanding justice after the suspect, Anne Sacoolas (pictured), claimed diplomatic immunity and was spirited out of Britain after the crash
The President accidentally revealed a briefing note which stated that ‘the spouse of the U.S. government employee will not return to the United Kingdom’
Mr Trump’s bombshell briefing reveals the US has already told Britain she will not be returned to the UK to face justice
Speaking to Sky News about the briefing note, which Mr Trump accidentally flashed to cameras, the teenager’s mother Charlotte Charles said: ‘I’m just disgusted.
‘I don’t see the point in Boris Johnson talking to President Trump, or President Trump even taking a call from Boris Johnson.
‘If he’d already made his decision that if it were to be asked and if it were to be raised, the answer was already going to be no.
‘It’s just beyond any realm of any human thinking.’
Harry Dunn’s mother Charlotte weeps as she and her family speak to the media yesterday
Charlotte Charles (left) and Tim Dunn (right), the parents of Harry Dunn, arrive with their partners at the Foreign Office today ahead of the meeting with the Foreign Secretary
The crash took place in August outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire (pictured) – a US intelligence hub in Britain
Revealed: Coroner warned 12 years ago about dangers of US service personnel driving on wrong side of road near American airbases in UK after two servicemen died in crash
The death of Harry Dunn is the fourth fatal crash in recent years where an American living at a RAF base in Britain was driving on the wrong side of the road, MailOnline can reveal today.
American airmen Julious Hawkins, 25, John Biram, 27, and Hunter Davis, also 27, all died after head-on smashes near RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk.
The county’s coroner was so worried he wrote to US air force chiefs warning them to ‘learn lessons’ urgently after Mr Hawkins drove the wrong way down a dual carriageway for 13 miles while drunk before he smashed into an oncoming lorry in 2007.
Dr Peter Dean told MailOnline today the road deaths dating back 12 years have chilling similarities to the August crash where US spy’s wife Anne Sacoolas allegedly killed Harry Dunn before fleeing the country claiming diplomatic immunity.
He said: ‘This new case involves a young man who had his whole life in front of him. I feel for him and his family. I hope there will be a resolution for them. This tragedy shows that a moment’s inattention can have devastating and life-changing consequences’.
Staff Sergeant Hunter Davis died in a head-on crash near his Suffolk airbase after sending text while driving in 2016. Brit David Rolfe (right) also died in a crash involving an American serviceman
Harry, 19, was killed in a car crash in Northamptonshire six weeks ago allegedly caused by diplomat’s wife Anne Sacoolas who then fled the country
Explaining why he wrote the US Air Force in Suffolk in 2007 he said: ‘I was trying to raise awareness that it is a real problem after two people died having driven on the wrong side of the road.
Former Suffolk coroner Dr Peter Dean, who presided over two cases involving US airmen, wrote to US Air Force chiefs urging them to ‘learn lessons’
‘If it is the case [as Trump says] that this driver was on the wrong side of the road I can really believe that. If you are focussed on something else, tired, it can be easy for a driver used to the other side of the road to drift there. The tragedy is that every now and again it happens’.
Anne Sacoolas allegedly hit 19-year-old motorcyclist Harry Dunn with her Volvo SUV outside a US spy station in Northamptonshire after driving on the wrong side of the road for up to 400 yards on August 27.
Days later she was spirited from UK soil on a state-sponsored private jet from RAF Mildenhall, protected by her husband Jonathan’s diplomatic immunity.
MailOnline has uncovered a string of similar cases today.
In 2007 Julious Hawkins, 25, from RAF Mildenhall, died in a crash with a lorry after travelling 12 miles westbound on the eastbound carriageway of the A14 at 70mph at 3am.
Tests after his death revealed he had ‘pre-coma’ levels of alcohol in his blood. He had also taken sleeping tablets.
Three months later fellow serviceman John Biram, 27, from RAF Lakenheath, died in a head-on smash near Newmarket race course. He was also drunk and driving on the wrong side of the road.
In the same year 56 Suffolk-based US personnel appeared at Sudbury Magistrates’ Court – the court local to the bases – in just one day to face speeding charges.
In 2016 RAF Mildenhall airman Staff Sergeant Hunter Davis, 27, died after drifting on to the wrong side of the road. An investigation found the most likely cause of the three car collision was a loss of concentration due to the use of a mobile phone.
The 352d Special Operations Wing held a memorial at RAF Mildenhall on June 20 to say goodbye to SSgt Hunter Daviswho lost his life in a tragic vehicle accident after sending a text while driving
Anne Sacoolas (left, and pictured right on her wedding day in 2003) was travelling on the wrong side of the road for 400 yards before hitting him head-on, Harry Dunn’s heartbroken parents claim
In a similar case in 2013 a USAF Staff Sergeant was banned from driving after causing a head-on crash which resulted in the death of 75-year-old local man David Rolfe.
Candice Griffin, who had only been in the UK for two months, failed to see on an approaching car when she pulled out from an exit at RAF Mildenhall. That collision pushed the Peugeot into the path of a Mazda being driven by Mr Rolfe, who suffered fatal chest and neck injuries.
Griffin denied she was on the wrong side of the road – but admitted she had looked in both directions before beginning her move out of the airbase road but failed to look right for a second time.
This week Irving Berlin’s granddaughter was spared jail after she caused a head-on crash that killed a pensioner while holidaying in Scotland.
American Caroline Emmet, who lives in Paris, was driving on the wrong side of the road when her vehicle smashed into a car in which Elizabeth Henderson, 83, was a passenger.
The accident happened on the A198 in East Lothian on July 19, 2017. Mrs Henderson died two days later in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
At the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday, Lord Glennie deferred sentence until November next year after Emmet agreed to carry out 500 hours of unpaid work in France, where she lives. He also banned her from driving for three years.
Donald Trump has upset Harry’s family and British road safety campaigners he defended the wife of a US spy who killed him while driving on the wrong side of the road.
Mr Trump then said: ‘Those are the opposite roads. That can happen. I won’t say it ever happened to me, but it did. It happens. You have to be careful.’
The Dunn family called his words ‘oafish, insulting and inflammatory’.
Neil Greig, Director at safety charity IAM RoadSmart said: ‘It is important that anyone who is driving in a new country takes steps to familiarise themselves with the road conditions and regulations. In areas with high numbers of visitors we would support extra signposting’.
The US Air Force insists they give servicemen and women ‘stringent’ training about driving in the UK.
On top of its two-hour local road conditions course on arrival, there is a additional refresher course that all drivers under the age of 26 must complete within their first year there.
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