Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, arrive at the Women of Vision Awards in New York on May 16, 2023. Photo: Reuters / Twitter/anDrew Reuters / Twitter/anDrew

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are refuting claims that they staged the paparazzi car chase in New York City last week.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were pursued by photographers on e-bikes and scooters after they attended the Women of Vision Awards at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in Manhattan on May 16. The chase reportedly started around 10:00 p.m. and they say it took two hours before they were able to shake the paparazzi off their tail. They reportedly did not want to lead the photographers to a friend's house where they were staying.

But some doubted the couple's car chase story as it is allegedly impossible in a traffic-packed city like New York. Others even accused the former working royals of staging the incident for publicity. However, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle slammed these claims with their publicist Ashley Hansen calling the accusations "abhorrent."

"Respectfully, considering the duke's family history, one would have to think nothing of the couple or anybody associated with them to believe this was any sort of PR stunt," she told Page Six, referring to Princess Diana's death in a car crash while being pursued by paparazzi in Paris in 1997.

"Quite frankly, I think that's abhorrent," she added.

Despite the criticism, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have stuck to their story and even demanded for photo agency Backgrid to hand over copies of the videos and photos taken from that night.

According to the BBC, the California-based entertainment picture agency received a letter from the couple's legal team that stated, "We hereby demand that Backgrid immediately provide us with copies of all photos, videos, and/or films taken last night by the freelance photographers after the couple left their event and over the next several hours."

But Backgrid declined replying in a letter, "In America, as I'm sure you know, property belongs to the owner of it: Third parties cannot just demand it be given to them, as perhaps Kings can do."

"Perhaps you should sit down with your client and advise them that his English rules of royal prerogative to demand that the citizenry hand over their property to the Crown were rejected by this country long ago. We stand by our founding fathers."

Backgrid also said it is investigating the conduct of four freelance photographers who took photos of the Sussexes despite disputing that the paparazzi felt the couple was never in "immediate danger at any point."

"We do not condone any form of harassment or illegal activity. We are taking Prince Harry's allegations seriously and will be conducting a thorough investigation into the matter, " the agency said.

Prince Harry has often spoken about the trauma of losing his mother Princess Diana when he was 12 years old and how camera flashes take him back to one of the worst moments of his life.

In the second episode of the "Harry and Meghan" Netflix docuseries, he said, "Paparazzi still harass people. But the harassment really exists more online now. Once the photographs are out and the stories then put next to it, then comes the social media harassment."

Talking about Meghan Markle he added, "To see another woman in my life, who I love, go through this feeding frenzy – that's hard. It is basically the hunter versus the prey."

As for the car chase, New York City Mayor Eric Adams denounced the "reckless and irresponsible" behaviour of the paparazzi. He also labelled the incident as a "high-speed car chase" although representatives for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle never called it high speed but "near catastrophic." It is said that the couple and the duchess' mother Doria Ragland, who was also with them that night, were left shaken and terrified by the incident.