Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, took refuge at New York City police station in the middle of a "chaotic" pursuit by photographers, the couple and law enforcement sources said Wednesday.
The pair, together with Meghan’s mother, were followed by photographers after they left a charity event in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday night.
“This relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours, resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers,” a spokesperson for the couple said in a statement.
The spokesperson added that the “near catastrophic car chase” came “at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi.”
Law enforcement sources pushed back against any characterization that the incident was “near catastrophic” but conceded that the couple’s ride Tuesday night was “a bit chaotic.”
Julian Phillips, the police department’s deputy commissioner of public information, said officers “assisted the private security team protecting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.”
“There were numerous photographers that made their transport challenging,” Phillips said in a statement. “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived at their destination and there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries, or arrests in regard.”
The couple spent Tuesday night in the Upper East Side of Manhattan and didn't want photographers to know where they were staying, law enforcement sources said.
Photographers followed the couple for 75 minutes up and down the Franklin D. Roosevelt East River Drive, the main thoroughfare of Manhattan's East Side, sources said.
The traveling party went to the police department's 19th Precinct station house, on East 67th Street between Lexington and Third avenues, for about 15 minutes before they got into another car and left without being followed, sources said.
At the station, the couple's team flagged down a taxi driven by Sonny Singh, 37, of Queens.
They were about to take off when a garbage truck pulled in front of them, blocking their departure and giving pursuing photographers enough time to converge around the party, Singh said.
Instead of going to their ultimate destination, they simply drove around the neighborhood and ran up a $17.80 fare before Harry and Meghan got out of the cab back at the police station and back into their car.
They paid the fare and left a $50 tip, said Singh, who was unfazed by the celebrity pickup.
"I pulled over to the side, and the next you know, Prince Harry and his wife are running into my cab," Singh said in front of 30 Rockefeller Plaza after he had dropped off an airport fare.
"I picked up [rock star] Keith Richards [once], [he] was in my cab, and I had [former New York Police Commissioner] Ray Kelley in here one time, as well. So I picked up a lot of people. It's New York; you don't know who you're going to pick up."
The couple had attended the Women of Vision Awards and left New York’s Ziegfeld Ballroom at about 10 p.m., police officials said. Meghan’s mom, Doria Ragland, also attended the event.
It was the first public event the couple had attended since King Charles III's coronation, which Meghan didn't attend. Harry's mother, Princess Diana, died in a Paris car crash while being pursued by paparazzi in 1997.
“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 couple said in their statement Wednesday.
After they stepped down as senior royals in January 2020 and moved to California, the couple repeatedly complained about the lengths the media went to pursue them.
“We all know what the British press can be like, and it was destroying my mental health,” Harry said in a February 2021 interview on “The Late Late Show With James Corden.”
“This is toxic,” he said, adding the media had created a “really difficult” environment for the couple. “So I did what any husband and what any father would do — I need to get my family out of here.”
Harry has also said his biggest fear before he left the royal family was “history repeating itself,” with his wife facing the same intense scrutiny as Diana.
Both Harry and Meghan have since won privacy cases against several media outlets, with more still outstanding. Harry has also accused newspapers of using unlawful methods to target him and his family.
He is seeking to overturn a decision by the British government to take away his specialist police protection when he is in the U.K.