Maybe Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez are so young, they’re unfamiliar with Princess Diana’s horrible fate.
How else to explain why the celebrity teen couple last week apparently allowed a bodyguard, Kenny Hamilton, to drive them perilously through the streets of Bieber’s hometown of Stratford, Ont., just to avoid being photographed? In a charcoal-coloured SUV the threesome tore through side streets and even blew through red lights on the town’s main thoroughfare at speeds well above the posted limit — all in an apparent attempt to lose Canadian paparazzi, who were giving chase in their cars.
QMI Agency celebrity photographer John White was briefly part of the active pursuit and was witness to it all.
Attempts to reach Bieber and Hamilton for comment Thursday were not immediately successful.
Stratford Police say no complaints about a speeding vehicle were received when Bieber was in town last week.
It all started when Bieber, the 17-year-old singing sensation, and his singer/actress girlfriend, 18, paid a visit to Bieber’s grandfather’s house last Thursday, June 2. Fans tweeted that Bieber was there. It didn’t take long for the crowd to grow and for three Toronto paparazzi photographers — who were already in Stratford — to descend on the home, which had been shown in Bieber’s movie Never Say Never.
After the visit, Bieber and Gomez were driven away by Hamilton, White said, with the paps in hot pursuit. That’s when White said he saw Hamilton gun it — at speeds exceeding 80 km/hr down residential streets, then even faster down Stratford’s main thoroughfare Ontario Street, running red lights in the process. The speed limit on both Ontario Street and side streets in Stratford is 50 km/hr.
White said he tried to keep up with the Bieber vehicle and the other paparazzi cars, but realized to do so would be to speed and be unsafe, so he backed off. He said he witnessed the Bieber vehicle running red lights up ahead on Ontario Street. Stratford, a town with a population of about 30,000, was teeming with visitors, as it was opening week of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival.
“Did I miss some shots because of my call not to follow? Yes, but I didn’t put anyone at risk either,” White said. “Really … putting people’s lives at risk just to avoid being photographed?”
Insp. Sam Theocharis of the Stratford Police said they did not receive any reports or complaints about a vehicle going along city streets at a high-rate of speed during Bieber’s stay in his hometown.
Theocharis did say that police patrolled by the home of Bieber’s grandfather several times in the few days the pop star was home to ensure that the crowds were respectful and under control. He said that on a couple of occasions police did have to ask people to disperse and move along.
In August 1997, Princess Diana, her companion Dodi Fayed and their driver, Henri Paul, were all killed in a Paris underpass, when Paul crashed his Mercedes-Benz into a concrete pillar — at a speed more than twice the legal limit — while attempting to evade paparazzi, who had given chase in their vehicles.
White said the evasive actions he witnessed in Stratford last week didn’t make sense to him.
“Why wouldn’t Bieber expect the paparazzi to show up when tweets showed up that he was visiting his grandfather’s home with Gomez? He’s an A-list celebrity who knew fans and photographers were anxious to know of his whereabouts. Like I have always said, once you have turn the taps on with media attention, it’s game on.
“I think Bieber’s grandfather should have a word with Justin and Hamilton about how they should drive safely through the streets, and accept the fact he will be photographed. Not only in Stratford but around the world. It’s only a picture, Justin.”