Harry and Meghan car chase probed by police in New York as row grows

Two New York police officers played down the incident, describing it as ‘a bit chaotic’  (AFP via Getty Images)
Two New York police officers played down the incident, describing it as ‘a bit chaotic’ (AFP via Getty Images)

Police in New York were on Thursday investigating the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s “near catastrophic” car chase with paparazzi as a row broke out over the incident.

It was said to have happened after Prince Harry, Meghan and her mother Doria Ragland attended an awards ceremony on Tuesday night. A spokesman for the couple claimed a “relentless pursuit” involving photographers in half a dozen blacked-out vehicles lasted for more than two hours and there were “multiple near collisions” involving other drivers, 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,” they added.

New York mayor Eric Adams described the actions of the paparazzi as “reckless” and “irresponsible”, while the couple’s press secretary Ashley Hansen added: “I have never experienced their vulnerability as much as I did. They were incredibly shaken up.”

But taxi driver Sukhcharn Singh, 37, who drove Harry and Meghan for part of the journey, didn’t agree with the assessment that it was “near catastrophic”. He said he never felt in danger and shrugged off suggestions the episode was like a movie car chase.

Mr Singh, who drives a yellow cab, said: “I think that’s all, you know, exaggerated and stuff like that. So don’t read too much into that. New York City is the safest place to be. There’s police stations, cops on every corner, so there’s no reason to be afraid in New York.”

Taxi driver Sukhcharn Singh drove Harry and Meghan for part of the journey (AP)
Taxi driver Sukhcharn Singh drove Harry and Meghan for part of the journey (AP)

Mr Singh, who said he was tipped $50 (£40) for the 10-minute drive, added that the pair “seemed nervous” while they were in his vehicle.

It is understood Harry, Meghan and Ms Ragland were staying at a private residence and did not want to compromise the security of their friend’s home. The trio had flown to New York for Meghan, 41, to attend an awards ceremony in Manhattan. She received the Women of Vision Award recognising her “global advocacy to empower and advocate on behalf of women and girls”.

It was Harry and Meghan’s first public appearance together since the duchess’s absence at the Coronation earlier this month. The prince, 38, is currently involved in two High Court battles with the Home Office over its decision to deny them police bodyguards after they stepped back from royal duties.

Two New York police officers also played down the incident, describing it as “a bit chaotic”. Officers said the Sussexes had been driven around for about an hour and 15 minutes as they were followed by paparazzi before they were dropped off at the New York City police department’s 19th precinct. They were picked up by Mr Singh who was waved down by one of the royals’ security guards.

Celebrity news agency Backgrid that filmed Harry and Meghan also disputed their version of events, claiming it was an SUV in the couple’s security detail that drove recklessly.

A paparazzi driver reportedly involved in the chase told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “Their driver was making it a catastrophic experience... if they were going 80mph, I would probably have been going 20mph behind them and hoping to keep sight of them. So if it was dangerous and catastrophic, it was more than likely based on the person that was driving.”

Omid Scobie, author of a biography on Harry and Meghan, told the BBC: “When you read the statement you assume it’s some sort of Fast and the Furious situation in the middle of New York City, which we know crawls at a snail’s pace. It was sort of a game of cat and mouse, sometimes their car sat in traffic surrounded by photographers on bikes and cars behind them, and then there were moments when the road was clear and the car went up to 80 mph trying to lose some of the people that were following them.”

New York police are investigating the circumstances but mayor Mr Adams said he would find it “hard to believe” the pursuit lasted two hours. He added it would be “horrific” for Harry to be involved in an accident similar to the one that killed his mother Diana in 1997.

A Palace spokesman declined to comment, and it is understood no senior royals have contacted the couple.