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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Harry Dunn’s parents: ‘Nothing will stop us from making sure Anne Sacoolas is held accountable’

“You don’t realise how physically tired trying to grieve can make you,” she says. “You always assume that mentally it is going to take its toll but I completely underestimated how physically exhausting it is. You don’t feel like you’ve got blood flowing through your veins on many occasions. Everything aches – even the backs of your eyes.”

Charlotte says she did try to return to work but was startled by the sudden lack of empathy she felt towards her patients. “I was angry and upset with myself. I couldn’t do my job like I used to,” she says. “I was embarrassed by that.”

The scene of the crash itself, just a few miles from their home, looms over all of their lives. Tim visits once a month to strim the grass and arrange the tributes that are left to Harry. Charlotte, on the other hand, is unable to even drive past. She used to do the weekly shop at a nearby supermarket but now avoids it at all costs.

Harry’s twin Niall lived close to the scene of the crash and at the time was working just 400 yards awards away in a steel fabrication plant where he was due to be promoted to foreman. Almost immediately afterwards he left the job, and his rented house, and is now back living with Charlotte in Harry’s old room, his life on hold. 

“I’ve driven him back to his ex-employer once or twice but it was horrific,” Charlotte says. “You could visibly see the colour drain from him. He did a morning [back there] and it completely broke him.”

Tim adds: “He will need a lot of support in the next few years for that boy to move forward. The hurt must be awful for him. You can see it in his eyes.”

Tim and Charlotte separated when the twins were young. They have both since remarried and have two step-children each but remain very close, living only a few miles apart. 

They say in the immediate aftermath of the crash they were willing to give Sacoolas, a mother of three, the benefit of the doubt. But ever since she fled the country their position has hardened. 

In recent months a “virtual trial” has been mooted – something the Dunn family would accept. Charlotte says she has never been approached by Sacoolas or her representatives, but even if she did at this belated stage nothing will change their minds about pursuing the criminal case.

“There is absolutely nothing that will stop us making sure that she is held accountable,” she says. “Just because she is who she is, she has to face the UK justice system.”

When Harry died his mother was insistent that she didn’t want to preserve his room as a shrine – as parents who have lost children often do. She invited family in to take any of his possessions that meant something to them. Niall chose a favourite T-shirt, Charlotte’s mother rifled through pockets and drawers to collect £10 in spare change which Harry had borrowed from her the day before he died and which she now keeps untouched by her bedside. Tim’s wife, Tracey, turned his favourite Northampton Town dressing gown into cushions. Charlotte has a few strands of her son’s hair which she wears in a silver locket around her neck.  

She admits that she would never be able to leave his childhood home, the walls of which are covered with photographs of Harry. “It brings me close to him,” she says.

Even on the surrounding streets outside the memories of him are everywhere: ribbons in the green of his favourite Kawasaki motorbike are tied around lampposts and the trunk of a walnut tree growing outside their home.

“We will never move on,” she says. “You never get used to the loss of a child. Ever. You just learn to live with the scars.” 

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