Paparazzi speak out after Harry and Meghan’s alleged ‘near catastrophic’ car chase

Harry and Meghan walk hand-in-hand on a track inside a stadium. Harry wears a black sweater; Meghan wears a white suit.
Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, were allegedly involved in a “near catastrophic” car chase this week in New York.
(Peter Dejong / Associated Press)

Photographers at the scene of an alleged “near catastrophic” car chase involving Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, have disputed the royal couple’s account of the incident.

Celebrity photo agency Backgrid USA Inc. released a statement Wednesday defending its freelance photographers who witnessed the alleged chase and denied that the pursuit caused multiple near-collisions on the streets of New York City.

Backgrid claims it has reviewed photos and videos from four freelance photographers who were there that night — including three who traveled by car and one who was riding a bicycle.


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“It is important to note that these photographers have a professional responsibility to cover newsworthy events and personalities, including public figures such as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle,” Backgrid said in a statement provided Thursday to The Times.

“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.”

The paparazzi working for Backgrid went so far as to accuse one of the vehicles in Harry and Meghan’s security escort of “driving in a manner that could be perceived as reckless.” The photo agency alleges that video footage shows the SUV “blocking off streets” and “being pulled over by the police.”

(The NYPD confirmed to The Times on Wednesday that officers “assisted the private security team protecting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex” that evening.)

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“We understand that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s security detail had a job to do, and we respect their work,” Backgrid said.

“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.”


Still, the photo agency promised it is “taking Prince Harry’s allegations seriously and will be conducting a thorough investigation into the matter.”

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Another photographer-witness quoted separately by People magazine dismissed the Sussexes’ “sensational” claims as “crazy hyperbole.”

“Nobody got a ticket or arrested,” the photographer told People. “I don’t see how it was near catastrophic.”

The statement released Wednesday by the duke and duchess tells a different, more harrowing story that many compared to the events leading up to the death of Harry’s mother, Princess Diana. The prince has been vocal about his mission to protect his wife and children from suffering the same fate as his mother, who died in a 1997 car crash while her chauffeur was trying to evade paparazzi in Paris.

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A spokesperson for Harry and Meghan deemed the paparazzi in New York “highly aggressive” and described the chase as a “relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours.” The former actor, her husband and her mother, Doria Ragland, were tailed by photographers while leaving the Woman of Vision Awards at the Ziegfield Ballroom, where Meghan was among the honorees.

“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,” a representative for the Sussexes said.


“Dissemination of these images, given the ways in which they were obtained, encourages a highly intrusive practice that is dangerous to all involved.”

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The chase allegedly included six blacked-out vehicles and resulted in several traffic violations, such as driving on the sidewalk, running red lights, reversing down a one-way street, driving while on the phone, driving while snapping photos and illegally blocking a moving vehicle.

TMZ reported that one of the paparazzi vehicles drove the wrong way down a one-way street; Harry and Meghan’s car reached 80 miles per hour on the FDR Drive highway in Manhattan.

At one point, the duke and duchess abandoned their black SUV for a yellow New York taxi in an attempt to lose their pursuers. A cab driver — who said he transported the couple for about 10 minutes of their journey — later told the Washington Post that he felt safe during the trip and would not describe the incident as a chase. He did note, however, that photographers were following them “the whole time.”

Representatives for Harry and Meghan did not immediately respond Thursday to The Times’ request for comment.

Times staff writer Nardine Saad contributed to this report.