The narrative around Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s paparazzi “car chase” has come into confusion after differing accounts from a member of the couple’s security detail and a cab driver who gave them a ride that night.
A spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced on Wednesday that a relentless pursuit unfolded the night before after the couple and Ms Markle’s mother Doria Ragland attended an awards ceremony in New York City.
The “two-hour-long” chase reportedly resulted in multiple near collisions involving “other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers,” the spokesperson said.
Chris Sanchez, a member of the couple’s security team, told CNN on Wednesday that he “had never” come close to the chaos he experienced on Tuesday night.
“What we were dealing with was very chaotic. There were about a dozen vehicles: cars, scooters and bicycles,” Mr Sanchez said.
“The public [was] in jeopardy at several points. It could have been fatal. They were jumping curbs and red lights. At one point they blocked the limousine and started taking pictures until we were able to get out.”
And he added: “[I] was concerned about [Prince Harry and his wife] but more about the public because they [the paparazzi] were being so erratic. People were on sidewalks and crossing streets and the [paparazzi] were crossing red lights. We did everything by the letter of law.”
But the taxi driver who picked up the Sussexes from the New York City Police Department’s 19th precinct, where they had gone to in an attempt to lose paparazzi, told the Washington Post he didn’t feel threatened.
The driver said Meghan and Harry’s security asked him to drive back to the station out of concern their location would be shared with more people.
“I don’t think I would call it a chase,” Sukhcharn Singh told the Post. “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 NYPD told The Independent in a statement that the department assisted the couple’s “challenging” transport, but no collisions, summonses, injuries, or arrests were reported.
Meanwhile, Mr Sanchez told CNN that Prince Harry and Meghan were left frightened and exhausted by the time they arrived back.
NYC Mayor Eric Adams said during a press conference on Wednesday that he was told two officers could have been injured. The mayor said while he found it “hard to believe that there was a two-hour high-speed chase,” even an incident lasting 10 minutes could have been “extremely dangerous”.
“It’s clear that the press, the paparazzi, they want to get the right shot,” Mayor Adams said. “But public safety must always be at the forefront.”
“New York City is different from a small town somewhere. You shouldn’t be speeding anywhere but this is a densely populated city,” he added, noting the amount of traffic and movement and people on the streets.
It is understood that the Sussexes believe the pursuit, which is said to have involved six blacked-out vehicles, could have been fatal.
Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, died in 1997 from injuries sustained in a car crash after trying to flee paparazzi who were following her vehicle.
The duke, who was 12 years old when his mother died, spoke about his concern of history repeating itself in his AppleTV+ docuseries The Me You Can’t See, in which he drew parallels between the treatment of his mother and the scrutiny he and Meghan faced.
“It’s incredibly triggering to potentially lose another woman in my life, but the list is growing. And it all comes back to the same people, the same business model, the same industry,” Harry said.
In the docuseries, Harry also reflected on the inquest into Diana’s death, which concluded she was unlawfully killed due to “gross negligence” of her driver, Henri Paul, who had been drinking, and the paparazzi who were following her car at the time of the crash.
According to the duke, he was “so angry” that there was “no justice at all” after the inquest. “Nothing came from that. The same people who chased her into the tunnel photographed her dying in the backseat of that car,” he recalled.
The royal has also spoken about the trauma of his mother’s death in his revealing memoir Spare. Prince Harry said in the book he’s retraced the route his mother’s driver took in Paris on the night she died.
“I’d thought driving the tunnel would bring an end, or brief cessation, to the pain, the decade of unrelenting pain. Instead, it brought on the start of Pain, Part Deux,” he wrote.
The pursuit of the Sussexes is said to have involved a number of traffic violations including driving on the pavement and through red lights, reversing down a one-way street, illegally blocking a moving vehicle and driving while photographing and while on the phone.
In the statement, the spokesperson for the Sussexes condemned the “dangerous” way images of the couple and Ms Ragland leaving the event were obtained.
“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 spokesperson said. “Dissemination of these images, given the ways in which they were obtained, encourages a highly intrusive practice that is dangerous to all involved.”