Police were told to drop Dubai princess kidnap inquiry

David Brown
March 6, 2020, The Times

A police investigation into the kidnapping of a teenage Arab princess after she escaped from her father’s British mansion was halted following interest by Tony Blair’s government.

Princess Shamsa was 19 when she was snatched from a street in Cambridge in August 2000 and has been kept captive since by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, a court was told.

The princess had an apparently gilded childhood at the heart of the Dubai royal family. Aged 14 she had beaten Princess Anne in a long-distance horse race across the Arabian desert.

Five years later she fled her father’s Longcross estate near Cobham in Surrey, where the family spent their holidays. She moved into a hostel in south London and later stayed with friends in Cambridge. Then she disappeared.

The princess’s own account of her abduction was revealed yesterday with the publication of a fact-finding judgment relating to the custody battle of two of her half-siblings.

In an email in February 2001 to a London immigration lawyer she explained: “My father . . . sent four Arab men to catch me, they were carrying guns and threatening me, they drove me to my father’s place in Newmarket. There they gave me two injections and a handful of tablets, the very next morning a helicopter came and flew me to the plane, which took me back to Dubai. I am locked up until today.”

The lawyer called the police and Detective Chief Inspector David Beck, of Cambridgeshire police, opened an investigation.

Mohammed al-Shaibani, the present director-general of the Ruler’s Court in Dubai, told him that on the day the princess disappeared he had travelled with three men from London to the sheikh’s Dalham Hall estate in Newmarket. One of the men who accompanied him was the head of Dubai’s Royal Air Wing, which provides aircraft for the royal family. Mr Shaibani said that he then took a helicopter to Deauville in France with a woman he later identified as Princess Shamsa.

The helicopter pilot agency, security staff at the sheikh’s estate and UK Customs all confirmed the arrival and departure of the flight.

Robin Cook, then the Labour foreign secretary, asked to be kept informed of progress in the police investigation, the court was told.

When the detective chief inspector asked to visit Dubai the Crown Prosecution Service refused.

Charles Geekie, QC, representing Princess Haya, told the court there was evidence of interference in the police inquiry. “The Foreign & Commonwealth Office was fully engaged with interest from the foreign secretary [before] permission to pursue the investig-ation was refused,” he said.

The Foreign Office refused to release details about the kidnapping because it would “increase public knowledge about our relations with UAE”.

The only evidence about Shamsa’s present state is a home video made in 2018 by her sister, Latifa. Both princesses are daughters of the Houria Ahmed Lamara, one of the sheikh’s six wives. Princess Latifa said Shamsa was “confined to one room and constantly supervised” while being given medications which Latifa believes are designed “to control her mind”.

The sheikh told the family division of the High Court in a statement that he had organised a search for Princess Shamsa as she was more “vulnerable than other young women of her age because her status made her a kidnap risk”, and that he felt “overwhelming relief when he learnt she was safe.

He said that he had asked Latifa and Shamsa in August if they wanted to talk to British lawyers but they declined.

A Cambridgeshire police spokeswoman said that the investigation had been dropped because the evidence available “was insufficient to take any further action”.