Prince Harry recorded paparazzi harassment of himself, Meghan Markle and her mother Doria Ragland and will hand the files to the New York Police Department, Newsweek has been told.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s spokesperson released a statement on Wednesday, May 17, stating they were in a “a near catastrophic car chase” following an awards gala in New York City.
Harry and Meghan’s team said the trio were subjected to a “relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours,” though their account was toned down by the NYPD, New York Mayor Eric Adams and a taxi driver whose car they briefly traveled in.
Footage shot by the paparazzi was published by U.S. tabloid website TMZ in a move the Sussex camp told Newsweek was “absolutely inexcusable.”
It shows Harry filming a photographer circling the yellow New York taxi while he sits alongside Meghan and Ragland on the back seat.
Now, the Sussex team has told Newsweek the material he shot will be passed to the “investigation” by the NYPD as they push for accountability over an incident that reminded many of the death of Princess Diana.
Harry and Meghan are, however, under pressure over the wording of their account of events, despite it being seemingly agreed on all sides that they were followed during a lengthy attempt to shake off photographers.
The dramatic events emerged during several hours of frantic news reporting, beginning with the Sussex team’s statement: “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 incident occurred after the Sussexes left the Ziegfeld Ballroom, where Meghan had received a “Women of Vision” award from the Ms. Foundation.
Photographers followed their SUV and in an attempt to prevent the paparazzi from tailing them all the way to the address where they were staying they circled Manhattan.
However, they were unable to lose the paparazzi and so went to the NYPD’s 19th precinct building where they spent around 15 minutes, before climbing into a yellow New York cab, in an effort to outwit the photographers.
When that did not work either the cab returned to the police station after about ten minutes and they switched again to their security team’s SUV.
However, the cab driver, Sukhcharn Singh, was among those to push back on the notion there had been a “near catastrophic” chase when he told CBS News: “I think that’s all, you know, exaggerated and stuff like that.”
He added that he did not see dangerous behavior: “No, no, no. No, that must have happened earlier, if they were being chased before.”
The NYPD also toned down the Sussexes characterization of the pursuit in a statement released to Newsweek: “On Tuesday 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.”
New York Mayor Eric Adams told a press conference: “The briefing I received, two of our officers could’ve been injured. New York City is different from some small town somewhere.
“You shouldn’t be speeding anywhere, but this is a densely populated city. And I think all of us, I don’t think there’s many of us, who don’t recall how his mom died.”
However, he added: “I would find it hard to believe that there was a two hour high speed chase, that would be—I’d find that hard to believe. But we will find out the exact duration of it. But if it’s 10 minutes, a 10-minute chase is extremely dangerous in New York City.”
If Harry and Meghan were able to use their own video clips to press the police into prosecuting the paparazzi it would be a major win for the couple and would go a long way towards reversing the awkward comments from law enforcement, the mayor and the taxi driver.
However, they are in the hands of the authorities over any decision on whether to bring charges against the photographers and are up against a different paparazzi culture to the one Harry is used to in Britain.
Princess Diana’s death was a reckoning for the U.K. media and, coupled with the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics, led to a dramatic shift in culture among journalists.
Not only are photographers not allowed to follow celebrities, even within the law, but it is a breach of press regulations to persist in photographing someone who has asked for the pictures to stop.
There have been successful regulatory complaints against news organizations under the rule and newspapers are particularly cautious around royal family members, knowing the huge reputational fall out of getting such a call wrong.
Paparazzi pictures of Harry, Meghan and Ragland in the taxi briefly ran on the websites of U.K. tabloids the Daily Mail and Daily Express but were taken down after the Sussexes revealed the circumstances under which they were shot.
TMZ, however, has not removed the paparazzi footage and as a U.S. website there may be little the couple can do.
What’s more, Backgrid, which circulated the images, released a statement detailing the perspective of a group of freelance photographers involved: “According to the accounts given by these freelance contributors, they were covering the couple’s stay in New York City, including the possibility of a dinner after an award ceremony.
“They had no intention of causing any distress or harm, as their only tool was their cameras. A few of the photos even show Meghan Markle smiling inside a cab.”
They appeared to show no acknowledgment of the U.K. regulatory position that photographers simply should not follow celebrities at all, whether dangerously or safely.
It all presents a growing challenge for Harry and Meghan, who are left re-fighting battles in America that the royal family won in Britain decades ago.
Jack Royston is chief royal correspondent for Newsweek, based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jack_royston and read his stories on Newsweek’s The Royals Facebook page.
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