An Indian-origin taxi driver rescued Prince Harry and Meghan Markle from a scrum of paparazzi pursuing them on the streets of New York after a function and termed them "nice people" who interacted with him politely despite "looking nervous", according to media reports.
Sukhcharn Singh, known as Sonny, was flagged down by police on Tuesday night when the royal dissidents were reportedly chased through the streets of Manhattan in their car and loaded into his taxi to make them incognito, the New York Post reported. After the fairytale-sounding episode in which the royals suddenly found their transport transformed from a limo to an ordinary yellow cab, Singh told the newspaper: "It was pretty crazy. They were just trying to get home." "They didn't seem that scared but they looked nervous", he added. "It wasn't like a car chase in a movie," he said.
Talking to the BBC earlier, Singh, who goes by the name Sonny, said that he picked the couple up at a local police precinct in midtown Manhattan. "I was on 67th Street and then the security guard hailed me. Next thing you know, Prince Harry and his wife were hopping into my cab," he said. "We got blocked by a garbage truck, and all of a sudden, paparazzi came and started taking pictures."
The couple were about to share their destination, when the security guard made the call to return to the police precinct, Singh told the BBC. "They looked nervous, I think they were being chased the whole day or something," he said, adding: "They were pretty nervous, but the security guard, he was on it." For at least the few minutes they were in Singh's car, he did not believe they were in danger.
"I don't think that's true, I think that's all exaggerated and stuff like that. Don't read too much into that," Singh told the BBC. He later added "that must have happened before" they got in his taxi. "New York City's the safest place to be... There's police stations, cops on every corner, there's no reason to be afraid in New York." The paparazzi were not being aggressive during his drive, he said.
"They were behind us. I mean, they stayed on top of us, that was pretty much it, it was nothing more. They kept their distance." In a statement, Harry and Meghan's spokesperson said they had experienced a "near catastrophic car chase". The New York police also said numerous photographers "made their transport challenging". Singh also described Harry and Meghan as "nice people".
"At the end of the trip, they say, 'Oh nice meeting you'," and asked his name, Singh recalled. As his passengers disembarked, the security guard paid and tipped him for the ride. "It was great. Ten-minute drive, $50... What can you ask for? You can't beat that," he told the BBC. The paparazzi reportedly began their chase after Markle had received the Women of Vision Awards of the Ms Foundation surrounded by glitterati in a ballroom in mid-Manhattan. As they were followed by photographers in several vehicles, they went to a police station, where they switched to Singh's taxi. After he drove them around for a while, the photographers caught on to them. Singh told the Washington Post: "They kept following us and were coming next to the car".
He recalled to the New York Post, "There were flashes from every side of the car," Singh recalled. "They were just clicking away. I put my visor down because the flashes were so bright". Singh returned to the police station and police made other arrangements for the couple to get to the place they were staying in. Markle's mother Doria Ragland was also with the couple.
The episode brought back memories of Harry's mother Diana's death in a Paris car accident in 1977 with paparazzi in hot pursuit. WCBS TV quoted Mayor Eric Adams as saying: "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." WABC TV said that the photo agency countered that it was Harry's security escort "was driving in a manner that could be perceived as reckless".