Prince Harry, his wife Meghan, and her mother were involved in a “near catastrophic” car chase after being followed by paparazzi, according to his spokesperson.
The “relentless pursuit” of the couple and Ms Ragland lasted for “two hours”, a statement said, and “resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians, and two NYPD officers.” The chase began after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex left an awards ceremony in New York on Tuesday (16 May) - their first public appearance since the coronation of King Charles III earlier this month.
But since reports first emerged other statements have been given which appear to downplay the incident, with the NYPD describing the situation as “a bit of a chaotic scene.” The force said there were “no reported collisions, summonses, injuries, or arrests“, but did admit there were “multiple photographers”, which made the transportation of the group “challenging”. Here’s everything we know so far - including a timeline of events.
What did Harry and Meghan say?
A statement released on Wednesday (17 May) by Prince Harry’s spokesperson said: “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. Dissemination of these images, given the ways in which they were obtained, encourages a highly intrusive practice that is dangerous to all involved.”
It is also understood that Prince Harry and Meghan believe the pursuit could have been fatal, as it involved six blacked-out vehicles with unidentified people driving recklessly and endangering the convoy as well as members of the public around them.
Meanwhile, the couple’s press secretary, Ashley Hansen, made clear to Sky News that it had been a traumatic experience for them. She told the broadcaster: “I have never experienced their vulnerability as much as I did last night. They were incredibly scared and shaken up.
“There were several times where the car stopped and security got out. There were instances where the police confronted the paparazzi and had asked them to stop or give them space, to do this safely. Unfortunately that wish was not respected.”
Chris Sanchez, a member of the couple’s security team, added that he had “never” come close to the chaos he experienced on Tuesday (16 May). He told CNN: “What we were dealing with was very chaotic. There were about a dozen vehicles: cars, scooters and bicycles.
“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.”
What did the NYPD say?
NYPD officers were assisting Prince Harry and Meghan’s private security team while they travelled, and have given their statement on the incident. A spokesperson did not describe the scene as “near catastrophic”, but did say it was “a bit chaotic”.
Julian Phillips, the deputy commissioner of the New York Police Department, said on Wednesday (17 May): “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 City mayor Eric Adams also commented on the incident, telling reporters that it is “reckless and irresponsible” for paparazzi to chase people in vehicles. “It’s clear that the press, the paparazzi, they want to get the right shot,” he said. “But public safety must always be at the forefront.”
Mayor Adams added that he was especially concerned that police officers “could have been injured”, and said that while he found it “hard to believe that there was a two-hour high-speed chase”, even a chase lasting ten minutes could have been “extremely dangerous.”
He also referenced the tragic death of Prince Harry’s mother Diana, who was killed in 1997 after trying to flee the paparazzi who had been following her while she drove through Paris. “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,” Mayor Adams said.
What did the taxi driver say?
At one point during the chase, Prince Harry and Meghan’s security team dropped the couple and Ms Raglan off at an NYPD station, where they stayed for around 15 minutes as they waited for the situation to de-escalate. They were then picked up by a taxi driver, who drove the group for a short while before returning them to the police station as their security had grown “concerned” about two vehicles following them.
Sukhcharn Singh told The Washington Post that he picked up the couple and Ms Ragland at 11pm, and they were in his car for around 10 minutes. “It wasn’t like a car chase in a movie,” he remarked. “I never felt like I was in danger.”
But Mr Singh did say that Prince Harry and Meghan were “quiet and seemed scared”, admitting that he might not have seen everything - and that the impression he got from the couple was that they had already been pursued by paparrazi before they got in his car. He added that photographers were following his car “the whole time” he was driving the group.
The taxi driver also said that the Sussexes tipped him $50 (£40) for the drive.
A timeline of events in Prince Harry and Meghan’s car chase
The events began on Tuesday (16 May) when Prince Harry, Meghan, and her mother, Doria Ragland, attended the Ms Foundation for Women’s 50th anniversary gala event in New York, where Meghan was receiving a Woman of Vision award.
At around 10pm, the group left Ziegfeld Ballroom, where the ceremony was taking place, and got into an SUV, driven by a member of their private security team - and escorted by an NYPD vehicle.
The paparazzi car chase began shortly after, with photographers following the group for about an hour and 15 minutes. Prince Harry and Meghan initially wanted to return to where they were staying on the Upper East Side, but did not want the paparazzi to know where they were going in case it compromised their security.
During the pursuit, paparazzi drove on pavements, ran red lights, reversed down one-way streets, took photographs while at the wheel, and illegally blocked a moving vehicle, according to Omid Scobie, a journalist close to Meghan and Harry.
Mr Scobie also wrote on Twitter: “Despite being confronted by uniformed police multiple times, the paparrazi’s cars continued their pursuit in trying to follow the Sussexes and Doria to the private residence they were staying at.”
At around 11pm, the NYPD intervened and, assisting the couple’s private security detail, led the group to a police station about 1.4 miles from Ziegfeld Ballroom, where their journey had begun, Associated Press reported.
Prince Harry, Meghan, and Ms Ragland stayed at the 19th precinct for 15 minutes as they waited for the paparazzi situation to de-escalate.
The group were then picked up by taxi driver Sukhcharn Singh, who drove them around for about 10 minutes before the Sussexes’ security team became “concerned” about two vehicles following them. Mr Singh then returned them to the police station.
Once the trio made it back to the precinct, they managed to get into another car and leave undisturbed. They then arrived at the apartment where they were staying.
The incident has reminded many of when Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, died in a car accident in 1997. Henri Paul, Diana’s driver and security employee, had been attempting to evade relentless paparazzi when the car collided with a concrete pillar in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel. Paul and Diana’s partner Dodi Fayed were pronounced dead on the scene, while Diana died at the hospital.
Buckingham Palace has refused to comment on the incident. When the spokesperson was asked if King Charles III planned to get in contact with his son, Prince Harry, the spokesperson repeated that the Palace would not be commenting.