(NEW YORK) — Police sources are countering a claim by Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, that they were involved in a “near catastrophic car chase” while being pursued by paparazzi in Manhattan on Tuesday night.
A spokesperson for the couple, who were returning from an event along with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, accused paparazzi of being “highly aggressive” and driving on the sidewalk and running red lights during a two-hour “relentless pursuit” of the famous pair. Police sources, however, are saying the whole episode only took about 20 minutes and did not involve the amount of paparazzi the spokesperson claimed.
“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.
Harry and Meghan appeared Tuesday night at the Ziegfeld Ballroom as Meghan received the Ms. Foundation’s Women of Vision Award at the foundation’s annual gala.
The foundation was co-founded by feminist icon and activist Gloria Steinem, a friend of Meghan’s, who presented her with the award.
Police sources described to ABC News a different version of events from the one described by Harry and Meghan’s spokesperson.
Two New York Police Department detectives were present at the Ziegfeld when Harry and Meghan emerged from the event and drove alongside the couple’s private vehicle to get them home. Harry and Meghan were home no more than 20 minutes after their departure from the event, according to police sources.
Along the way, police sources said photographers on bicycles are visible on security cameras but not the kind of caravan described by sources close to Harry and Meghan.
The NYPD said in a statement: “On Wednesday evening, May 16, 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.”
The NYPD is running down reports that members of the paparazzi had license plates covered on their motorcycles, scooters and cars, and that they were driving on sidewalks and backward on streets.
At one point, Harry and Meghan’s private security detail believed there was a car following them, so they drove toward the 19th Precinct, which is close to where the couple is staying, and pull into a driveway, according to sources.
Private security flagged a yellow cab and Harry, Meghan and a security guard climbed in. The cab circled the block and returned to the precinct, unable to shake the photographers, according to sources.
At no time did Harry and Meghan enter the police precinct, the sources said.
Celebrity news agency Backgrid USA said it received photos and videos from four freelance photographers — three who were in cars and one on a bike — who were covering Harry and Meghan’s stay Tuesday night, and it also refuted claims of a “near catastrophic car chase.”
According to the photographers, “there were no near-collisions or near-crashes during this incident,” Backgrid USA said in a statement. “The photographers have reported feeling that the couple was not in immediate danger at any point.”
Some of the photos “even show Meghan Markle smiling inside a cab,” the statement said.
The photographers claimed that one of the four SUVs in Harry’s security escort “was driving in a manner that could be perceived as reckless,” including blocking off streets, according to Backgrid.
The couple warned in their statement that people should not share photos of the incident.
“Dissemination of these images, given the ways in which they were obtained, encourages a highly intrusive practice that is dangerous to all in involved,” the spokesperson said.
The couple has widely criticized the press and paparazzi and asked for privacy in the past.
Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana of Wales, was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being pursued by paparazzi.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said it was “a bit reckless and irresponsible” for paparazzi to chase Harry and Meghan and he noted echoes of Princess Diana’s death as he took questions from reporters during an unrelated event.
“I don’t think there are many of us who don’t recall how his mom died,” Adams said. “I thought that was a bit reckless and irresponsible.”
The mayor, however, expressed skepticism the chase lasted two hours.
“I would find it hard to believe there was a two-hour high-speed chase,” the mayor said. “But if it’s 10 minutes, a 10-minute chase is extremely dangerous.”
Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle and Duke of Sussex Prince Harry attend the ceremony, which benefits the Ms. Foundation for Women and feminist movements, in New York, May 16, 2023.
In his first statement confirming their relationship in 2016, Prince Harry called out the “abuse and harassment” Meghan Markle faced from the press amid speculation that the couple were dating.
In a statement issued by Kensington Palace at the time , Prince Harry said he “has never been comfortable” with the significant curiosity surrounding his private life, rarely taking “formal action” on the “very regular publication of fictional stories that are written about him.”
“Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her,” the statement read. “It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm.”
The royal couple stepped down from their role as senior members of the royal family in 2018. In a docuseries released since, the couple has said they are prioritizing privacy for their children , with Harry saying the constant harassment from paparazzi and press that he endured throughout his childhood was never fair.
ABC News’ Mark Osborne and Nadine El-Bawab contributed to this report.
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