There have been a lot of conflicting stories regarding what Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have described as a “near catastrophic” car chase with “a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi” after they attended the Ms Foundation’s 2023 Women of Vision Awards with Meghan’s mom, Doria Ragland, on Tuesday, May 16th in New York. The Duchess of Sussex, 41, received an award from Gloria Steinem for her women’s rights work and empowerment advocacy, but the evening was somewhat overshadowed by the events that followed after they left the ceremony.
According to The Independent, six blacked-out vehicles with unidentified people driving “recklessly” were surrounding their vehicle, and the couple reportedly feared the pursuit could have been fatal. On Wednesday, May 17th, New York Mayor Eric Adams condemned the photographers for being “reckless and irresponsible,” adding that it would be “horrific” for the Spare author, 38, to be involved in an accident similar to the one that killed his mother, the late Princess Diana, in Paris in 1997.
The Duke And Duchess Of Sussex Address The Car Chase
According to The Guardian, a spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said on Wednesday, May 17th: “Last night, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Ms Ragland were involved in a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi. This relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours, resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers.”
“While being a public figure comes with a level of interest from the public, it should never come at the cost of anyone’s safety,” the statement continued. “Dissemination of these images, given the ways in which they were obtained, encourages a highly intrusive practice that is dangerous to all involved.”
Exclusive: Security detail says Prince Harry and Meghan's car chase 'could have been fatal' | CNN https://t.co/O9zlXRwczx
— Spartan Will (@music_cem) May 21, 2023
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s lawyers have since asked for entertainment picture agency Backgrid, who reportedly had some of its freelance photographers involved in the alleged chase, to hand over the footage that was taken, but the BBC reports that they have turned down the request.
Backgrid did, however, issue an official statement following the incident, and said: “We understand that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s security detail had a job to do, and we respect their work. We do, however, want to point out that according to the photographers present, there were no near-collisions or near-crashes during this incident. The photographers have reported feeling that the couple was not in immediate danger at any point.”
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Witnesses Speak Out
There are multiple sides to the story, as while some people are describing it as a near catastrophic car chase, others believe it is being blown way out of proportion, especially as the NYPD confirmed that there have been no reported injuries, collisions, or even arrests. According to several outlets, a taxi driver who claimed to have driven Harry, Meghan, and her mom for part of the journey said the vehicle he was driving was pursued by a black Honda Accord and a grey Honda CR-V, but confirmed to the BBC that the paparazzi were not “aggressive,” and the reports about the paparazzi chasing them were a bit exaggerated.
We're proud of Sukhcharn 'Sonny' Singh who kept his riders safe in his golden chariot. All in a day's work. “They were quite nice..They were just about to tell me the location..but then all these paparazzi came out of nowhere so they told me to drive!”https://t.co/4QpohLki97
— NY Taxi Workers (@NYTWA) May 17, 2023
The Sussexes’ security guard flagged down a taxi, driven by Sukhcharn ‘Sonny’ Singh, after they left the police station. Singh said he picked them up around 11 pm outside the NYPD 19th precinct on East 67th Street, a little more than a mile from the Ziegfeld Ballroom, and told BBC News he had driven a block when his taxi “got blocked by a garbage truck and all of sudden paparazzi came and started taking pictures.” He went on to say that he was then asked to drive them back to the police station. Singh also told The Washington Post: “I don’t think I would call it a chase. I never felt like I was in danger. It wasn’t like a car chase in a movie. They were quiet and seemed scared but it’s New York – it’s safe.”
The New York Police Department, which deployed officers to help escort Prince Harry, Meghan and her mom said “numerous photographers” had “made their transport difficult” on Tuesday evening, but there were “no reported collisions, summonses, injuries or arrests.” Their full statement is as follows: “On Wednesday evening, May 16, the NYPD assisted the private security team protecting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. There were numerous photographers that made their transport challenging. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived at their destination and there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries, or arrests in regard.”
A photographer on the scene also echoed this, and told People that it is “sensational” to describe what happened on the night as “near catastrophic,” adding: “Nobody got a ticket or arrested… I don’t see how it was near catastrophic other than crazy hyperbole.”
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Harry and Meghan say they were involved in a 'near catastrophic' car chase incident involving paparazzi.
One of the photographers involved said it was 'very tense trying to keep up with the vehicle' but it was 'their driver who was making it a catastrophic experience'. pic.twitter.com/QduoE9tFAF
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) May 18, 2023
ITV’s Good Morning Britain also heard from one of the alleged paparazzi drivers on Thursday, May 18th, who suggested that Harry and Meghan’s driver was the only one who was driving recklessly. The unidentified pap said: “Last night after leaving the theatre, there were hopes from me and a few other photographers that maybe they would go to a restaurant. For the most part, I was driving and it was very tense trying to keep up with the vehicles.”
He went on to say, “They did a lot of blocking and there was a lot of different type of maneuvers to stop what was happening,” before saying it was the Sussexes’ driver who could have made the situation more dangerous, saying: “Their driver was making it a catastrophic experience… if they were going 80mph, I would probably have been going 20mph behind them and hoping to keep sight of them. So if it was dangerous and catastrophic, it was more than likely based on the person that was driving.”
Ken Wharfe, Diana's former body guard, said if he had been there, he would have advised Harry and Meghan to pose briefly for photographs before they left. “All the paparazzi want is a photograph,” he said. “They aren’t out to kill people.” https://t.co/v6QasGbKOR
— William Booth (@BoothWilliam) May 18, 2023
Princess Diana’s Former Bodyguard Speaks Out
The late Princess Diana’s former bodyguard, Ken Wharfe, also told the program that the paparazzi were “not there to kill them” but just wanted to get their photographs, and had their security “properly stage managed” it, “things wouldn’t have been as bad as they eventually turned out.”
“From the footage I’ve seen, it looks chaotic,” he said. “There seemed to be no management of their departure, and whenever there is a departure involving a VIP or any protection scenario, that’s always the weakest part of it. So if it looks bad at that point, things thereafter are only going to get worse.”
“The protection team he has got at the moment has never dealt with such a high-profile celebrity as Harry and Meghan,” he continued, adding, “I will make the point here from my own experience… the paparazzi, at best, can be talked to, but at worst they’re a nuisance. But they’re not out to cause the death of any one person. So, I think we have to be a little bit careful there.”