The Princess, the snapper and the man in the street

Diana, Princess of Wales, last night issued a plea for privacy as a row brewed over her role in a street scuffle between a paparazzo photographer and a passer-by described as a "hotel tout".

The incident took place on Monday morning outside a west London gym when the princess asked a passer-by, Kevin Duggan, to stop a photographer taking pictures of her. Mr Duggan allegedly pinned the award-winning photographer, Brendan Beirne, to a wall and took his camera, seizing his film.

In a statement from her office, the princess said she welcomed stronger legal powers to put an end to "harassment" from photographers who followed her during her daily routine.

"Once again the Princess of Wales has been harassed by a photographer," the statement read.

"Once again this has become the subject of inaccurate press comment. The princess hopes that the recently passed Protection from Harassment Act will give greater protection to people such as herself who are the victims of this kind of distressing intrusion into their private lives." The princess has become increasingly critical of photographers' conduct and has in the past been reduced to tears by their activities.

Kevin Duggan, who works as a "hotel tout" for budget backpacker boarding houses in the bustling Earl's Court area, stepped in when the princess became unhappy with the photographer after he snapped her outside the health club.

According to yesterday's Sun, the princess told Mr Duggan to "get the film". The newspaper printed pictures of the princess asking Mr Duggan for help and standing by as the burly 28-year-old pinned the photographer to a wall and took his film.

Scotland Yard confirmed the confrontation took place.

A spokeswoman said: "Police are aware of a minor incident in the Earl's Court Road area involving a member of the Royal Family. This matter has not been formally reported and no formal complaint has been received."

Mr Beirne, 39, said: "I am stunned she did not step in and stop it. It was outrageous. She knows I am not a stalker or a threat. I have taken photographs of her for 10 years."

A family friend near Mr Duggan's mother's home in Co Armagh said: "Kevin would definitely be the kind of man who would help out a woman in distress. He's been very well brought up and is a lovely lad."

Matthew Brace

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