‘Even though she was a princess, all she ever wanted was to be free’

Radhika Sanghani
August 6, 2019, Grazia UK

As the UK courts put the spotlight on the fate of the missing Princess Latifa, her best friend tells Radhika Sanghani why she hopes it could finally lead to her freedom…

Last week, Princess Haya of Dubai made her first public appearance since fleeing to Britain, arriving at the Royal Courts of Justice in London with her legal team to fight her estranged husband Sheikh Mohammed – one of the most high-profile leaders in the Middle East — for wardship of their two children. Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein, 45, is said to be in fear for her life as she attempts to stop her children being returned to their billionaire father, from London, where she has spent the last month living in an £85 million Kensington townhouse. While details of her court case against the Sheikh cannot be reported, last week it emerged that the princess sought a forced marriage protection order for one of her children. She also applied for a non-molestation order.

Those actions are perhaps even more significant given that Princess Haya’s flight from Dubai earlier this year — thought to have been on a private jet helped by foreign diplomats — is said to have been triggered by her discovery of information about the fate of her stepdaughter, Princess Latifa, who similarly attempted to escape. Crucially, Princess Haya is now the third Dubai princess to try to flee the Gulf state — and the only one who has succeeded.

Back in 2000, Princess Shamsa — one of the Sheikh’s 23 children by his six wives — ran away from her father’s estate in Surrey aged 19, but was later found and brought back to Dubai. Cambridgeshire police investigated the case at the time, but dropped it, only to reopen it recently after receiving new evidence.

Then 17 months ago, Shamsa’s younger sister Princess Latifa, now 33, dramatically tried to escape Dubai via speedboat and yacht to India. She is said to have been captured off the coast of Goa and taken back to her father in Dubai, where human rights activists claim she is being kept against her will.

‘I haven’t seen her since our escape attempt, says Tiina Jauhiainen, a Finnish martial arts instructor who was Latifa’s best friend, and part of the failed escape attempt. Tiina was captured and kept in a Dubai jail for two weeks after armed guards stormed their yacht on 4 March 2018, reportedly dragging Latifa away.

While Tiina was later released after intervention from the Finnish government, she hasn’t heard a word from her best friend since that night. ‘