MEGHAN’S DAD STAGED PHOTOS WITH THE PAPARAZZI
Astonishing CCTV shows father of bride posing for faked pictures... while Palace pleaded for privacy
MEGHAN MARKLE’S father has secretly collaborated with a British paparazzi photographer to stage a series of pictures – despite pleas from Prince Harry for the media to leave his future father-in-law alone.
Thomas Markle, who will walk his daughter down the aisle at Windsor Castle on Saturday, has been caught on CCTV willingly posing for faked photographs that have been sold to newspapers around the world. Together with other pictures taken with his co-operation, they will have netted up to £100,000.
The astonishing footage obtained by The Mail on Sunday shows the 73-year-old former lighting director arriving at an internet cafe with
photographer Jeff Rayner. Minutes later the pair are seen preparing to photograph Mr Markle while he is sitting at a computer looking at a news story about his daughter and Prince Harry.
In one revealing frame, the photographer, just feet away on the other side of the cafe, can be seen aiming his lens at Mr Markle, who is peering at a photograph of the engaged couple.
The staged photographs come despite Kensington Palace issuing a warning to publishers to respect Mr Markle’s privacy, saying he had been ‘harassed’ by paparazzi.
A Mail on Sunday investigation has established that the internet cafe pictures are just part of a series Rayner took of Meghan’s father. They have been published in newspapers, magazines and on websites around the world.
In all of them Mr Markle appears to be unaware they are being taken. But we can today reveal they were
Palace warned the press to respect his privacy
in fact contrived and shot with his co-operation. It is not known if he was paid to take part.
The faked images include Mr Markle apparently:
Being measured for a suit to wear to the wedding – in fact the ‘tailor’ was an assistant at a party goods shop recruited for the job as the suit hire store the photographer planned to use was closed.
Being caught browsing a book of British landmarks in a branch of Starbucks – although he actually arrived at the cafe with the photographer, and set up the shot.
Working out with weights to get in shape for the big day – but the pictures appear to have been taken on a waste tip, an unlikely place to exercise but away from prying eyes.
The revelation that Mr Markle has been co-operating with a paparazzo behind the backs of his daughter, Prince Harry and Kensington Palace officials will cause huge embarrassment to the Royal Family in the run-up to the wedding. It will be galling for Harry who, in a BBC documentary last year, hit out at the paparazzi for the way in which they pursued his mother, Princess Diana. She was killed in Paris in 1997 after being chased by photographers.
And shortly after his relationship with Meghan became public in 2016, the Prince made a heartfelt plea for the media to respect the privacy of Meghan and her family.
Our exposé also comes just weeks after Kensington Palace officials wrote to editors around the world and to British newspaper watchdog the Independent Press Standards Organisation on behalf of Mr Markle. Editors were told that he was suffering as a result of media intrusion and did not want to participate
in photocalls or interviews. An official letter, written by Prince Harry’s communications secretary Jason Knauf, described how Mr Markle had been ‘followed and harassed’ by photographers and journalists. The letter urged editors not to publish pictures of Mr Markle and called on them to stop pursuing him.
Mail on Sunday reporters have established that Mr Markle and Rayner, a 44-year-old Los Angelesbased photographer, set up at least four photoshoots. Mr Markle is seen wearing identical clothes in different sets of pictures, suggesting different ‘scenarios’ were possibly staged on the same day.
Our exclusive images were captured by CCTV cameras on March 27 at the Omega internet cafe in Mr Markle’s adopted home town of Rosarito, Mexico. He and Rayner, who is wearing flip-flops and carrying an expensive camera, can clearly be seen arriving together at 9.50am. Over nine minutes, the pair are seen chatting and choreographing a series of photographs, two of which were published for the first time last Wednesday.
Their publication in a British national newspaper came 42 days after they were taken but just ten days before the wedding. They appeared later in other publications and online. Experts say they would have made thousands of pounds for the photographer.
Jessica Anaya, 34, who manages the internet cafe, told our reporters the photos were staged, with the photographer taking them from less than 6ft away.
She said: ‘The man and the photographer came in together. It was in the morning.
‘They didn’t stay long, probably about ten minutes and they left together. I thought it was strange that they were taking pictures in here. It’s an unusual place to take pictures.
‘He [Mr Markle] had never come here before and I didn’t know who he was. He had a photographer with him. He came in and paid to use the computer, while the other person was taking pictures of him from behind.’
The Mail on Sunday has been told that Mr Markle even provided a prop for one image that appeared on the front page of a British newspaper, making the photographer up to £10,000, according to experts.
The photo, which was also published worldwide, appeared to show Mr Markle being measured for a wedding suit at a backstreet store.
The Mail on Sunday spoke to the young man seen measuring Mr Markle’s waistline and neck.
He was described as a ‘tailor’ in information supplied with the picture but this newspaper can reveal that he is 17-year-old David Flores, a student who works part-time in a shop supplying tables, chairs and bunting for parties.
Mr Markle apparently turned up to the suit hire store last month only to find it closed, so recruited Mr Flores from nearby premises.
Mr Flores revealed how Mr Markle appeared at the party shop with Rayner in tow. He said Mr Markle even supplied his own measuring tape, which he pulled from his trouser pocket. Mr Markle then instructed him to take measurements while Rayner snapped away.
Mr Flores recalled how at the end of the encounter Mr Markle paid him a ‘tip’ of $15 – about £11.
He said: ‘It was really strange. This big American guy got the measuring tape out of his pocket and he was saying things in English. I don’t speak good English but I understood what he wanted me to do. The photographer he was with stepped back to the street and started taking pictures.
‘The big man was showing me what to do with the tape, holding it across himself. I just went along with it. I was telling him the measurements but he didn’t write them down or anything.
‘After around 20 minutes, he said “thank you” and gave me about $15 as a tip.
‘He and the photographer left together in the same car. I think it was a grey or silver minivan. The photographer was driving. I had no idea who this American man was until I saw the pictures in the news. Now I know he is Thomas Markle, the father of Princess Meghan.’
Until his daughter’s relationship with Harry became public Mr Markle lived a reclusive life at his seafront bungalow in a gated clifftop community 20 miles south of the American border. Even his neighbours rarely saw him. He is understood to have spoken to the Prince on the phone but will meet him and the rest of the Royal Family for the first time this week.
Friends of Mr Markle emphasised the immense pressure his daughter’s engagement has caused for him, with global media interest prompting the Palace’s statement that he did not want any publicity and wanted to be left alone.
One friend said: ‘Don’t underestimate how stressful and, at times, distressing the attention on him has been. Remember, this is a man who has intentionally tried to live on his own away from anyone he knows.’
Former Suits star Meghan is said to be devoted to her father, whose nickname for her is Bean. She credits him with encouraging her Hollywood career by taking her on to the set of the shows where he worked as a lighting director.
Very few pictures of Mr Markle have emerged, so the shots appearing to show him preparing for his starring role at St George’s Chapel on Saturday would have been highly lucrative.
Other pictures of Mr Markle taken by Rayner include one of him studying a book of British landmarks at a Starbucks cafe, and another in which he appears to be working out with weights to get in shape for the big day.
A witness to the Starbucks shoot told The Mail on Sunday that Mr Markle and the photographer arrived there together to stage the
‘No one wrote down the measurements I took’
‘We realised later the Princess’s dad was here’
pictures of him intently studying the book Images Of Britain: A Pictorial Journey Through History.
The Mail on Sunday has established that this picture was taken on March 26 – the day before the internet cafe shoot – but did not appear until April 3. It too featured prominently in a national newspaper before being published elsewhere.
Carlos Ortiz, 19, the barista who took Mr Markle’s order for a flat white coffee, said: ‘They came in together. He [Mr Markle] sat down in one of the seats in the window reading this book he had with him. The other guy who was with him didn’t order a drink.
‘He went back outside into the parking lot and started taking pictures.
‘Mr Markle sat in the window for half an hour. I thought it was some sort of photoshoot. We then saw it in the news and we realised the Princess’s dad was here. I had no idea who he was at the time. I had never seen him here before or since, and I work here most days. It’s the only time he has come in here.’
When he was shown a picture of Rayner, Mr Ortiz immediately replied: ‘Yes, that’s the camera guy who was with him.’
Another Starbucks employee, Jessica Moreno, 24, who was working that day, said: ‘I saw them come in together but I was busy and wasn’t paying that much attention. Then I looked up and saw one of them taking pictures outside.’
Another picture apparently showing Mr Markle exercising in a bid to shed weight ahead of the big day also appeared in a British newspaper recently.
According to the photographer’s website it was taken on April 19. It was published two days later. The Mail on Sunday has discovered that it was taken at a remote hillside – less than a mile from Mr Markle’s home – covered with discarded mattresses, tyres and litter.
There are no witnesses to this shoot, but it is open to speculation as it is an unlikely location for a workout and may have been chosen so that Mr Markle would not be spotted.
Last night Kensington Palace declined to comment on The Mail on Sunday’s revelations.
Mr Rayner runs the picture agency Coleman-Rayner in Los Angeles with business partner Mark Coleman. The agency, founded in 2009, boasts that it ‘prides itself on its reputation for integrity, accuracy and dependability’.
Mr Rayner said last night: ‘For all the questions, I have no comment. There is going to be no comment, thank you.’
Thomas Markle tries to enter the suit hire shop – but it is closed... ...so the pictures were taken in the party shop nearby. The store’s fabrics, right, are visible in the main image
The photographer scans the computer booths for the best viewpoint as Mr Markle heads to the front counter to pay to get online
Mr Markle and the photographer book time to use one of the computers, but are secretly planning to choreograph a photoshoot
Photographer Jeff Rayner, camera slung over his shoulder, arrives at the Omega internet cafe at 9.50am on March 27 with Thomas Markle
SET UP: Thomas Markle, top left, and photographer Jeff Rayner enter an internet cafe to arrange this supposedly ‘snatched’ picture