ET has learned that neither Buckingham nor Kensington Palace will be commenting on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s claims of a car chase in New York City.
A source tells ET that “since Harry and Meghan have stepped back from royal duties, the palace generally does not comment on their activities.”
On Wednesday, a representative for Harry — who is the son of King Charles III and the late Princess Diana — and Meghan told news outlets that the couple, along with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, were involved in a “near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi” on Tuesday night.
The rep said that the incident occurred after the trio left the Ziegfeld Theater, where Meghan had been honored at the the Ms. Foundation Women of Vision Awards. Harry, Meghan and Doria entered and exited the venue publicly and posed for photos on the red carpet that night.
“This relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours, resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD (New York Police Department) officers,” the statement continued. “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 in involved.”
Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, died after a car crash involving paparazzi in Paris, France, on Aug. 31, 1997. She was 36.
Tuesday’s event was said to involve half a dozen blacked out vehicles, driven recklessly by unidentified individuals who, after being confronted by uniformed police multiple times, sped off in continued pursuit. Among the traffic violations allegedly committed were driving on the sidewalk, running red lights, reversing down a one-way street, driving while photographing and illegally blocking a moving vehicle.
A source tells ET on Thursday that Harry and Meghan are “understandably shaken but thankful everyone is OK.”
The source continues, “They were fearful. Certainly, the memories and echoes of what happened to Harry’s mother was front of mind.”
The source also says that the “pursuit started immediately when they left through a side door” of the venue.
“There were multiple individuals in cars, on bikes and scooters. They had already gotten their shots so there was no need for a chase,” the source adds. “Their private security has never seen anything like this in their entire career.”
The New York Police Department’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Julian Phillips issued a statement to ET on Wednesday, saying officers “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 arrived at their destination and there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries or arrested in regard.”
He added of Harry, “I don’t think there’s many of us, who don’t recall how his mom died. And it would be horrific to lose an innocent bystander during a chase like this and something to have happened to them as well.”
Adams called the situation “a bit reckless and irresponsible,” while acknowledging that high speed chases are unusual in the densely-populated city.
A New York-based photographer, who did not want to be named but was among the paparazzi following Harry and Meghan’s car on Tuesday, told ET that it is customary to follow cars with celebrities in NYC, but high-speed chases are not common due to the nature of the city streets and dense traffic.
Additionally, the photographer noted, many paps opt to use bicycles or vespas because they move faster than the cars.
The photographer claimed that while paparazzi were following Harry and Meghan’s car, “multiple illegal moves” by Harry and Meghan’s driver were unnecessary and not at all customary with what other celebrities typically do in New York.
Meanwhile, a rep for Prince Harry and Meghan told ET that there was no film crew tagging along with the couple at the time of the incident, adding that they have footage of everything from their own iPhones.
“I can guarantee you that the photogs’ recollections are absolutely false,” the spokesperson said. “Even the mayor has confirmed how reckless it was.”
Photo agency Backgrid USA has also responded to Sussex’s claims.
“At Backgrid USA Inc., we value transparency and ethics in journalism, which include providing fair and factual responses to claims. We are aware of Prince Harry’s statement regarding an alleged ‘near catastrophic car chase’ involving himself, Meghan Markle, and her mother, in New York City on Tuesday night,” the company said in a statement to ET responding to the allegations. “We want to clarify that we have received photos and videos of last night’s events from four freelance photographers, three of whom were in cars and one of whom was riding a bicycle. It is important to note that these photographers have a professional responsibility to cover newsworthy events and personalities, including public figures such as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.”
Backgrid claimed that the “freelance contributors… were covering the couple’s stay in New York City, including the possibility of a dinner after an award ceremony.” The company alleged that the photographers “had no intention of causing any distress or harm, as their only tool was their cameras.”
According to the photo agency, the hired photographers alleged that “one of the four SUVs from Prince Harry’s security escort was driving in a manner that could be perceived as reckless.”
“The vehicle was seen blocking off streets, and in one video, it is shown being pulled over by the police,” their response continued.
The company also adamantly denied the Duke and Duchess’ spokesperson’s claim that they were being followed by “highly aggressive paparazzi” and “according to the photographers present, there were no near-collisions or near-crashes during this incident.”
“The photographers have reported feeling that the couple was not in immediate danger at any point,” Backgrid said in their statement.
The photo agency ended its remarks by saying it will be looking “into the matter.”
“At Backgrid USA Inc., 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 situation comes weeks after Harry traveled to the U.K. to attend the coronation of his father. The estranged prince had no formal role in the coronation, nor did he make any contact with the king or his brother, Prince William, during the big day.