Princess Diana's ex-bodyguard accuses Sussexes security of 'total mismanagement' after car chase

ITV News' Dan Rivers reports from New York on the aftermath of a 'near catastrophic' car chase between the Sussexes and paparazzi

Princess Diana's personal protection officer has accused the Duke and Duchess of Sussexes' security of "total mismanagement" after they were involved in a "near catastrophic" car chase in New York.

Ken Wharfe, who was by Diana's side for five years after serving as a bodyguard to Prince William and Prince Harry for two years in 1986, told ITV News the Sussexes' security operation looked "chaotic" from the get-go as they left a women's gala in Manhattan.

Mr Wharfe also said that the paparazzi were "not there to kill them" but rather just get their photograph, and had their security managed this, "things wouldn't have been as bad as they eventually turned out."

"What concerned me was (from) the actual very beginning of this programme of events, they left the hotel (and) to me, from the footage I've seen, it looks chaotic," Mr Wharfe said.

"There seemed to be no management of their departure, and whenever there is a departure involving a VIP or any protection scenario, that's always the weakest part of it.

"So if it looks bad at that point, things thereafter are only going to get worse.

Footage of Harry and Meghan looks "chaotic", Ken Wharfe tells ITV News

"They then began this journey of cat and mouse being pursued by interested paparazzi photographers, who incidentally are not there to kill them - they want to take a photograph.

"So had that been properly managed at the beginning (and they had) given them a photograph, my experience tells me that things wouldn't have been as bad as they eventually turned out."

Mr Wharfe also spoke about his "many, many years" working with Princess Diana and the "innocent" lives put at risk in a situation like this.

He said the couple should have gone back inside the hotel with security, who then should have addressed a strategy before leaving.

"When I worked with Diana over many, many years, if we began the scenario that happened last night every time a paparazzi turned up at Kensington Palace, we'd have been driving thousands of miles for no reason whatsoever."

"It has to be managed and what I saw last night was the total mismanagement of a security operation.

"If it was so bad at the beginning, the first thing you do is go back into the hotel, talk together and find out how we're gonna resolve this matter, not just disappear into the streets of New York in the hope you'll lose the paparazzi."

"The danger here is not necessarily an accident happening with Harry and Meghan or whatever, its actually innocent people that are likely to be the casualties of driving like this."

Mr Wharfe also questioned the presence of local police, saying "where were the New York Police Department?"

"They're always willing to help out... Even though Harry doesn't have official UK protection it would be incumbent upon the host country to make sure that he's safe, so had that happened I'm sure they would have given as much assistance as possible but it strikes me that this wasn't properly thought through."

Mr Wharfe's comments come as a photographer involved in the alleged car chase of Harry and Meghan's vehicle has spoken out in an exclusive interview with ITV News' Good Morning Britain.

A photographer who said he was involved in the chase shirked the blame, telling Good Morning Britain that it was Harry and Meghan's driver who made the incident "dangerous and catastrophic".

The photographer, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “Last night after leaving the theatre, there were hopes from me and a few other photographers that maybe they would go to a restaurant.

“For the most part, I was driving and it was very tense trying to keep up with the vehicles. They did a lot of blocking and there was a lot of different type of manoeuvres to stop what was happening.”

“Their driver was making it a catastrophic experience", a photographer who said he was involved in a car chase with Harry and Meghan tells ITV's Good Morning Britain

He continued: “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 versus anyone else.”

He added, “The driver wanted to drive fast, cut through lanes and do this and do that, go the wrong way, I had no control over any of that.

"It was too much. I don’t like the idea of high speed chases - going from across town to this town.”

Celebrity photography agency Backgrid USA released a statement on Thursday, clarifying that four photographers involved in the incident had been freelancing for the company.

A spokesperson said: "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."

The company says the photographers "had no intention of causing any distress or harm, as their only tool was their cameras."

Bruce Cotler, the president of the New York Press Photographers Association, said the way photographers allegedly acted Tuesday night violated the basic photojournalism principle of covering news “as documentarians and observers” and the code of ethics to which his members and “any press photographer with respect for themselves and the profession” are expected to adhere.

A timeline of the evening

  • Harry, Meghan and Ms Ragland attended the Ms. Foundation for Women’s annual gala at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in Manhattan. Meghan was presented the Women of Vision Award.

  • The group got into an SUV as crowds of pedestrians and photographers watched, according social media posts.

  • Harry and Meghan's vehicle was then followed by photographers.

  • Police got involved and led them to a police station about a mile from the ballroom.

  • The couple spent several minutes at the police station, waiting for the situation to de-escalate.

  • They leave in a taxi - Sukhcharn Singh, the cab driver, said one of the couple’s private security guards flagged him down as he drove on 67th Street near the police station.

  • The royals were about to give their destination when a bin lorry blocked their path, Mr Singh said. Instead, he was told to circle back to the police station.

  • The couple got stuck in traffic while a few blocks away from the ballroom. Photographers recorded them through the windows. The cab was being escorted by NYPD vehicles with flashing lights, according to a video posted by TMZ.

  • It is understood the Sussexes are staying at a property owned by friends in New York.

New York City cab driver Sukhcharn Singh with his taxi which he used to drive Harry and Meghan. Credit: AP

The Sussex's spokesperson said the chase resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD (New York Police Department) officers.

After the incident, the taxi driver who was transporting Harry and Meghan said the description of the chase as "near catastrophic" was "exaggerated".

Sukhcharn Singh said the couple looked "nervous" while in his cab but he did not feel endangered.

Mr Singh said: “I was crossing on 67th Street, and then the security guard hailed me, and next thing you know Prince Harry and his wife were hopping into my cab."

Asked what he thought of the description of the incident as "near catastrophic" he said: "Oh I don’t think that’s true. I think that’s all exaggerated and stuff like that.

"So don't read too much into that."

The Duke of Sussex’s security should have been “properly stage managed”, said his and Princess Diana's former personal protection officer.

Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Thursday, Ken Wharfe said: “The protection team he has got at the moment has never dealt with such a high-profile celebrity as Harry and Meghan.

“To them, I have some sympathy. The whole point is you have to take advice on this, and I don’t know to what extent the New York Police Department were involved, but basically it’s something that needs to be properly stage managed.

“I will make the point here from my own experience … the paparazzi, at best, can be talked to, but at worst they’re a nuisance.

“But they’re not out to cause the death of any one person. So, I think we have to be a little bit careful there.”

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