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.
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Caught on CCTV, how Meghan’s dad – and his paparazzi minder – scoped out an internet cafe, handed over cash and then staged ‘snatched’ photo of him gazing at an image of his girl with 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.
1. Photographer Jeff Rayner, camera slung over his shoulder, arrives at the Omega internet cafe at 9.50am on March 27 with Thomas Markle
2. The photographer scans the computer booths for the best viewpoint as Mr Markle heads to the front counter to pay to get online
3. Mr Markle and the photographer book time to use one of the computers, but are secretly planning to choreograph a photoshoot
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 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.
Last night, just hours ahead of our exposé, represenatives of Mr Markle wrote to editors around the world and to British newspaper watchdog the Independent Press Standards Organisation. Editors were told that he was suffering as a result of media intrusion and did not want to participate in photocalls or interviews.
4. In this grainy image, the figure of Mr Markle sitting at a desk in front of a computer screen can just about be made out, while behind him Rayner uses his long lens to capture pictures he later sells for sizeable fees
5. Rayner trains his lens on Mr Markle, who is in the corner of the cafe, reading stories about Harry and Meghan but looking at the screen at an odd angle
… to produce this lucrative shot which was flogged to the world’s unsuspecting media
Kensington Palace officials did the same a few weeks before. 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 Angeles-based 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.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will marry on May 19 in Windsor
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 Britain came 42 days after they were taken but just ten days before the wedding. They appeared in a number of publications including MailOnline, who were not party to any financial agreements with Mr Markle. 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.
Porsche-driving British pap bragged of ‘cheeky’ pictures
The man who took the set-up pictures of Mr Markle is an English former head boy who is now one of Los Angeles’s most ruthless paparazzi.
Jeff Rayner, 44, a married father-of-one from Canterbury, Kent, once boasted of earning £18,500 for pictures of Britney Spears shopping on Sunset Boulevard and claims he has a book of celebrity addresses that would be ‘a stalker’s dream’.
He says of his life: ‘I look at my friends back home – getting married, having babies – and here am I, hosing down Britney on Sunset. The trouble is, it’s just so lucrative.’
Porsche-driving Rayner bragged about his Mr Markle pictures on his Facebook page by posting a picture of the front page of the following day’s The Sun newspaper with the caption: ‘Cheeky little hit in The Sun.’
‘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.’
That ‘tailor’ measuring Meghan’s dad for his wedding suit? He’s really a party shop boy!
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
Mr Flores 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’
1. Thomas Markle tries to enter the suit hire shop – but it is closed… 2. So the pictures were taken in the party shop nearby. The store’s fabric (right) are visible in the main images where Mr Markle has his ‘suit fitting’
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 (above) told The Mail on Sunday that Mr Markle had arrived at the coffee shop with the photographer to set up the carefully choreographed image
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 for any workout, but could have been chosen to avoid prying eyes
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 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.’
I sympathise with Mr Markle – but this hasn’t helped Palace’s plea for privacy
Analysis by ROBERT JOBSON, ROYAL AUTHOR
As an experienced Royal observer, I have profound sympathy for Thomas Markle Snr, the reclusive father of Harry’s bride, Meghan. After all, he didn’t ask to be thrust into the media spotlight.
Throughout months of intense public interest, he has wisely chosen to remain silent. He hasn’t yet met the Royals. Rather, he has chosen to live in small-town Mexico, more than 5,000 miles away from St George’s Chapel.
It must be daunting to know that the world will be watching as he walks his daughter down the aisle. It is all the stranger, then, to learn that he has engaged in a sequence of staged photo stunts in the build-up to the wedding.
The resulting pictures, sold and syndicated around the world for large sums, appeared to give a candid and amusing insight into his preparations for his daughter’s big day. Some observers thought them too good to be true – and so it has proved.
Mail on Sunday enquiries have shown beyond doubt that, far from being snapped in the street by chance as he went about his business, Mr Markle had posed deliberately for a paparazzi agency – stunts that are best described as fake news. He even supplied his own props.
Was it a naive attempt to ‘manage’ the media interest in him? Did he do it in return for money? Either way, the enterprise has been a mistake.
It is unquestionably a very difficult time for anyone who feels the full glare of publicity, and his friends say he has been stressed and distressed by it. Again, I sympathise. But colluding with the paparazzi does not help his case, particularly as the most famous father of the bride who inevitably had so much attention on him in the build up to the big day.
Mr Markle’s arrangement is the more troubling as the Palace has gone out of its way to protect him, sending letters to newspaper editors in the past few weeks requesting in the strongest terms that he and his family be given privacy.
It was made clear that there would be no picture opportunities with Meghan’s father because he was a man who wanted to lead his life in peace. Now it seems that Mr Markle had another agenda – and one that will hardly fit with his future son-in-law Prince Harry, who is understandably sensitive about press intrusion.
It risks undermining Harry’s heartfelt pleas for privacy. No one is suggesting this is a serious offence. I, better than most, understand how difficult the media landscape can be to negotiate. And I join with everyone in Britain and the wider world in wishing Harry, Meghan and her parents the most joyful of days on Saturday.
But I know I am not the only one to hope that, with help and guidance from the Palace, this unfortunate lapse of judgment from Meghan’s father is his last.
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