Attempts to investigate missing Dubai princess were blocked, UK court finds

Police chief investigating abduction from Cambridge in 2000 prevented from travelling to Dubai to interview witnesses

Owen Bowcott
March 5, 2020, The Guardian

The police chief investigating the abduction of the ruler of Dubai’s teenage daughter from the streets of Cambridge in 2000 was prevented from travelling to Dubai to pursue his criminal inquiries, a judgment has found.

DCI David Beck of Cambridgeshire police was denied permission to fly out to the Gulf to interview “potential witnesses” over the disappearance of Princess Shamsa, 19, after making a formal request to the Crown Prosecution Service.

But the judge, Sir Andrew McFarlane, said it was not possible “on the balance of probability” to conclude that it was refused “because of the direct intervention of the Foreign Office”.

Lawyers for Princess Haya told the family court that Sheikh Mohammed, the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, “or those acting on his behalf made representations to the United Kingdom authorities designed to bring an end to the [police] investigation [into Shamsa’s disappearance]”.

The court sought an explanation from the FCO. McFarlane’s judgment states: “A request has been made of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office [FCO] seeking information relating to the investigation of Shamsa’s alleged kidnapping.

“In response, the FCO has confirmed that it does hold information relevant to the request but that disclosure is refused for reasons including those under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 s27(1)(a) which recognise the need to protect information that would be likely to prejudice relations between the UK and other states if it was disclosed…”

The foreign office told the court: “Disclosure of this information would reduce the UK government’s ability to protect and promote UK interests through its relations with UAE which would not be in the public interest.”

Concluding that aspect of his inquiry, McFarlane found that: “Mr David Beck sought permission to visit Dubai to interview potential witnesses, that permission was refused and that the FCO holds information relevant to that request.

“It is not possible to find on the balance of probability that permission for Mr Beck to visit Dubai was refused because of the direct intervention of the FCO, nor, moving further still from the basic known facts, that any intervention by the FCO had been triggered by the father or the government of Dubai.”

Interviewed recently for the BBC documentary Escape from Dubai, Beck, who has since left the Cambridgeshire force, said: “Kidnap is a major offence and it’s not every day that an allegation involving a head of state lands on a police officer’s desk.”

Beck explained that he needed to speak to Shamsa directly but when he applied to visit Dubai to do so, he hit a wall. “A short while later, I was informed that my request had been declined,” he told the BBC. “I was never given a reason why.”