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Paparazzo quits in protest at Britney ‘hounding’

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Paparazzo quits in protest at Britney ‘hounding’

When paparazzi have a crisis of conscience over the wellbeing of their celebrity prey, events have clearly reached a serious level. So it is with Britney Spears, the troubled pop star and America’s favourite tabloid fodder, who was back under psychiatric evaluation in a Los Angeles hospital last night after the latest in a series of highly publicised meltdowns.

As the singer’s family and manager bickered over the right to direct her treatment after a court-ordered commitment into mental health care, a British photographer who has quit the chasing media pack warned the hounding could kill her.

Nick Stern has resigned from Splash, a Los Angeles-based, British-owned celebrity picture agency, in protest at the “aggressive” tactics employed in pursuing Spears, and predicted tragedy.
“Directly or indirectly, Britney is going to come to some horrific end, or a member of the public will,” he said. “It’s not what’s being done, it’s the way it’s being done. As she continues to deteriorate psychologically, I just can’t see a positive way out.”

The biggest threat, Stern said, came from the high-speed convoy of photographers’ cars and motorcycles that follow Spears’ every move through Los Angeles. The pursuit reached a new frenzy in the early hours of yesterday when the paparazzi tailed an ambulance and police escort taking the 26-year-old singer to hospital for the second time this month.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the trail of emergency vehicles that took Spears to the UCLA Medical Centre stretched longer than a football field. In an operation conducted with military precision, police and medical crews spoke secretively of “delivering the package”, in a failed attempt to throw photographers off the scent.

“The paps are completely out of control,” said Stern, 43. “It’s not unusual to have 20 or 30 cars pursuing her at any one time. It’s become acceptable to drive at 80mph down the wrong side of the street into oncoming traffic. I was horrified at what goes on. It’s so aggressive, there are fights and crashes and slashed tyres. I felt I needed to say something.”

Spears has exhibited increasingly bizarre behaviour in the past 12 months and has lost visitation rights to her two children, Sean Preston, two, and Jayden James, one, fathered by her estranged husband, Kevin Federline. The two are engaged in a custody battle.

After the singer’s admission to hospital yesterday, a judge at the Los Angeles county superior court signed an order committing her to a mandatory three-day evaluation, after which the stay could be extended to 14 days.

According to sources, Spears’ family had planned the intervention for two weeks with the cooperation of the police and hospital but against the wishes of the singer’s manager, Sam Lutfi. In recent weeks, friends and family have said they believe she is suffering from bipolar disorder, which is characterised by abrupt mood swings, or other psychiatric problems.

The circus continued in the hospital corridor early yesterday with a heated argument between Lutfi and Lynne and Jamie Spears. According to the celebrity website, doctors are now “cooperating fully” with the singer’s parents.

In London, meanwhile, the Rambert Dance Company has produced a music and dance interpretation of Spears’ troubles, Meltdown, that it intends to perform tonight at the Southbank Centre. The show ends with her carried off by dancers dressed as doctors in white coats.

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Feb 01, 2008 00:59am PDT

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