Meghan’s fa­ther staged pho­tos with pa­parazzi


The Irish Mail on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - From Michael Pow­ell and Ben Ellery in Mex­ico, and Caro­line Gra­ham in Los An­ge­les

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 next Sat­ur­day, has been caught on CCTV will­ingly pos­ing for faked pho­tos 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 (€113,256).

The as­ton­ish­ing footage obtained by the MoS 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 Harry.

In one re­veal­ing frame, the pho­tog­ra­pher, just feet away on the other side of the café, 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.

An Ir­ish Mail on Sun­day in­ves­ti­ga­tion has es­tab­lished that the in­ter­net café 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 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 café 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.

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 UK’s

Palace warned the press to re­spect his pri­vacy

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, Harry made a heart­felt plea for the me­dia to re­spect the pri­vacy of Meghan and her fam­ily.

To­day’s rev­e­la­tions come 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.

The MoS has es­tab­lished that Mr Markle and Rayner 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 café 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.

Jes­sica Anaya, 34, who man­ages the in­ter­net café told the MoS 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 MoS 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 (€11,300), ac­cord­ing to ex­perts. The photo, which was also pub­lished world­wide, ap­peared to show Mr Markle be­ing mea­sured for a wed­ding suit at a store.

The MoS 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 he is 17-year-old David Flores, a stu­dent who works part­time 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 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 €12.

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 next 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 café, and

‘No one wrote down the mea­sure­ments I took’ ‘We re­alised later the Princess’s dad was here’

an­other in which he ap­pears to be work­ing out with weights.

A wit­ness to the Star­bucks shoot told the MoS that Mr Markle and the pho­tog­ra­pher ar­rived there to­gether to stage the pic­tures of him in­tently study­ing the book Im­ages Of Bri­tain: A Pic­to­rial Jour­ney Through His­tory.

The MoS has es­tab­lished that this pic­ture was taken on March 26 – the day be­fore the in­ter­net café shoot – but did not ap­pear un­til April 3.

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.’

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 MoS 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 Mr Markle would not be spot­ted.

Last night Kens­ing­ton Palace de­clined to com­ment on the 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... the pic­tures were taken in the party shop nearby. The store’s fab­rics, right, are vis­i­ble in the main im­age

Caught here on CCTV, Meghan’s dad – and his pa­parazzi min­der – scoped out in­ter­net café, handed over cash and then staged ‘snatched’ photo of him gaz­ing at im­age of his girl with Harry...

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 café at 9.50am on March 27 with Thomas Markle

FAKED! READ­ING ‘IM­AGES OF BRI­TAIN’ IN STAR­BUCKS Meghan’s fa­ther stud­ies a book on British land­marks in preparation for the big day in Wind­sor Cas­tle. But Star­bucks barista Car­los Or­tiz, left, told The Mail on Sun­day that Mr Markle had ar­rived at the...

FAKED! HE EVEN BROUGHT HIS OWN TAPE MEA­SURE Us­ing a mea­sur­ing tape Thomas Markle brought along to the pho­to­shoot, be­mused party shop worker David Flores goes along with the stunt as the pho­tog­ra­pher snaps away. Mr Markle tipped him $15.

FAKED? GET­TING IN SHAPE FOR THE BIG DAY Ap­par­ently shed­ding some pounds be­fore the wed­ding, Mr Markle works out with weights on April 19. But this pic­ture was taken on a re­mote hill lit­tered with dis­carded tyres and mat­tresses – an un­likely lo­ca­tion...

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