Stuart Henderson, Harriet Sinclair and Emma Mackenzie
Wed, 17 May 2023 at 3:28 pm BST
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had not been contacted by any senior members of the Royal Family nearly 24 hours after a “near-catastrophic car chase”, Yahoo News understands.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are said to have been subjected to a “relentless pursuit” involving half a dozen blacked-out vehicles in New York on Tuesday night, according to the couple’s spokesperson.
They were in the city on Tuesday with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, for an event at which the duchess received an award.
Yahoo News understands that, as of 8pm on Wednesday, no member of the Royal Family had been in contact with Harry.
The couple said in a 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.”
Following the incident, New York City officials branded photographers “reckless and irresponsible” with the New York mayor, Eric Adams, saying: “I don’t think there are many of us who don’t recall how his mom died. I thought that was a bit reckless and irresponsible.”
However, he added: “I would find it hard to believe there was a two-hour. high-speed chase. But if it’s 10 minutes, a 10-minute chase is extremely dangerous.”
The couple has not described the incident as a high-speed chase.
Sukhcharn Singh, the couple’s taxi driver, told the Washington Post he wouldn’t “call it a chase”, but that his passengers “were quiet and seemed scared, but it’s New York – it’s safe”.
A member of the Sussexes’ security team, who was there for the incident, told CNN that he had “never seen, experienced anything like this. What we were dealing with was very chaotic”.
He also noted that “the public were in jeopardy at several points. It could have been fatal.”
The New York Police Department released a statement saying ‘numerous photographers… made their transport challenging”, adding there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries, or arrests.
Police sources told ABC News that their engagement with Harry and Megan lasted no more than 20 minutes and that, if the incident did last two hours, it was because Harry and Meghan’s security wanted to keep their location safe having avoided the paparazzi.
Paparazzi agency Backgrid USA said it did not condone harassment and would be “conducting a thorough investigation into the matter”.
It added: “The photographers report that one of the four SUVs from Prince Harry’s security escort was driving in a manner that could be perceived as reckless. The vehicle was seen blocking off streets, and in one video, it is shown being pulled over by the police.”
Buckingham Palace has declined to comment to Yahoo News.
What happened to Harry and Meghan?
The couple, who were staying at a private residence, left the Ziegfeld Ballroom after 8:30pm following their appearance at a Ms. Foundation event – their first public appearance together since the duchess’s absence at the King’s coronation earlier this month.
After they left, it is believed they were pursued by six blacked-out vehicles with unidentified people driving recklessly and endangering those around them.
It is thought the cars ran red lights, drove on the pavement and reversed down a one-way street while in pursuit – and that while those involved were confronted by uniformed police multiple times, they continued the pursuit, and that there is footage taken from security along with other evidence to support these allegations.
Echoes of Diana
The near-crash has prompted comparisons with the fatal Paris car crash that claimed his mother Princess Diana’s life in 1997.
The princess had been at the Ritz hotel with her partner Dodi Fayed when the car they were in crashed in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, killing both Diana and Dodi.
The vehicle had been pursued by a group of paparazzi on motorcycles ahead of the crash.
Prince Harry wrote about how photographers continued to take pictures of the princess as she lay dying. In his memoir, Spare, he said: “The last thing mummy ever saw on this Earth was a flashbulb.”
He also wrote: “I’d been told that paps chased Mummy, that they’d hunted her like a pack of wild dogs, but I’d never dared to imagine that, like wild dogs, they’d also feasted on her defenceless body.”
Warnings in Netflix documentary
In Harry & Meghan – the six-part documentary series released last year on Netflix – the couple discussed the difficulties of life in the public eye.
It was divulged NBC had to hire a driver who specialised in “evasive driving” when Meghan’s relationship with Harry first went public and she was still starring in Suits.
Her personal security guard said in the documentary: “This has been the most intense situation with the media. I mean, I’ve worked with A-list celebrities before, high net worth families before this blew the meta right out the water, the paparazzi, they’ll do what they have to do to get a picture.
“My job was to make sure that they didn’t really know where we were going and when we would go in there. We had a special driver taking myself and Megan to the studio all the time. He was trained in evasive driving, and we used to have to take different routes to the studio to get away from the paparazzi that were chasing us.”
Harry’s history with the Paparazzi
Harry has spent a lifetime enduring the invasive techniques of the paparazzi. In his memoir Spare, he discusses in detail what it was like to be chased by photographers as a child and to see the same happen to girlfriends such as Chelsy Davy.
He says this intrusion was a key factor in wanting to keep police security after deciding to step back from life as a working royal. In the book, he outlined details from the now-infamous ‘Sandringham Summit’, where the Sussexes’ future was discussed with other senior royals, writing: “I told everyone assembled that, above all, I was desperate to keep security. That was what worried me most, my family’s physical safety.
“I wanted to prevent a repeat of history, another untimely death like the one that had rocked this family to its core 23 years earlier.”
In July 2021, a legal representative of the couple said Harry’s “security was compromised due to the absence of police protection, whilst leaving a charity event”.
The Duke was briefly visiting the UK for the unveiling of a statue in memory of his late mother, Diana, when the incident occurred.
Harry vs the Home Office
Harry’s security concerns are at the heart of an ongoing legal action he is bringing against the Home Office.
His personal protection officers were removed in February 2020 when he stepped back as a working royal.
He has since appealed to the executive committee for the protection of royalty and public figures (Ravec) to finance the armed police protection himself.
Harry and Meghan ‘stalker’ arrested
News of the couple’s incident comes following an another incident at their California home in Montecito in the early hours of Tuesday morning, when a man was arrested after security saw him “lurking” near the couple’s property.
Kevin Garcia Valdovinos, 29 was arrested by police and charged with misdemeanor stalking, according to TMZ