Anne Sacoolas, the woman who fled the UK with her family after killing 19-year-old motorcyclist Harry Dunn in August 2019 was working for an intelligence agency at the time, a court in the US has been told.
Downing Street on Thursday said she had been notified to the UK as a diplomat’s spouse with no role, and it had not been aware she was an intelligence officer.
The revelations about her status came under cross examination at a civil court hearing in Virginia in the US where the Dunn family are seeking damages for their son’s death. Her precise employment status would impact the level of diplomatic immunity she enjoyed at the time she fled.
The Virginia court was told by her barrister John McGavin that her work was “especially a factor” in her leaving the UK.
He also told the court she fled the UK for “security issues” and feared she would “not get a fair trial” if she returned to the UK. Asked what the specific reason for her departure was, he said he knew but was not at a liberty to say.
Sacoolas, her husband Jonathan and three children left the UK in August 2019, days after Dunn’s death.
Previously it had been reported that the husband of Sacoolas was a CIA intelligence officer working at the RAF Croughton base in Northamptonshire. It had been suggested that his wife had an intelligence background but was a dependent and not working at the time at the base.
Any acknowledgement in the Virginia court that she was working for the intelligence agencies at the base brings into question the basis for the Foreign Office claim in 2019 that she enjoyed diplomatic immunity, and therefore could not be prosecuted and had to be allowed to leave the UK.
In originally accepting her departure from the UK, the government argued that the family of US staff employed at the RAF Croughton base in Northamptonshire enjoyed full diplomatic immunity. A 1995 treaty covering the base said only “administrative and technical staff” would have their immunity pre-waived, meaning they would not be immune from criminal jurisdiction for actions beyond their duties.
The high court ruled last year that Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity because that deal – known as a waiver – did not include the dependants of US staff.
So, if Sacoolas was at the Croughton site not simply in her capacity as the wife of a CIA operative, but was herself actively working at the site, her access to diplomatic immunity at the time of her departure arguably falls away. The Dunn family lawyer Radd Seiger called for an urgent investigation.
It is also possible to argue that although she was employed by the CIA, she was not being employed by the CIA at Croughton.
Sacoolas left the UK without the knowledge of police in August, but with the reluctant endorsement of the British Foreign Office.
The Foreign Office said in a statement: “The UK high court has found that Anne Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity while in the country under the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations”.
The longrunning dispute has been kept going by the persistence of the family of Dunn and their lawyer Seiger. He said he was flabbergasted by the revelations in the court, and claimed there was pandemonium inside the Foreign Office and the US State Department.
The strength of the campaign has led the UK government to request formally for her to be extradited to the UK to face charges of causing death by dangerous driving. The Dunn family’s barrister in the US, Agniezska Fryszman, told the court the British government had written a letter to the court to “endorse” their claim. The extradition rejection has been confirmed by the new Biden administration team at the State Department.
The judge is due to give a ruling on 17 February.