Sheikh's daughter escaped family's UK home before 'kidnap'

Stuart Millar and Jamie Wilson
December 14, 2001, The Guardian

The teenage daughter of the billionaire Crown Prince of Dubai dodged security guards and fled from her father’s vast private estate in Surrey in a Range Rover, her friends have told the Guardian.

Sheikha Shamsa al-Maktoum ran away, they say, a few weeks before she claims she was kidnapped by members of her father Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum’s staff and returned to Dubai.

In a growing controversy over the alleged kidnap of Shamsa, who was 19 at the time, ministers revealed yesterday that her father, who in effect runs the oil-rich Gulf state, tried to intervene with the British government over the ongoing police investigation into the allegations.

In a written parliamentary answer, the Foreign Office minister Ben Bradshaw told the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Norman Baker: “Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum’s London office have raised this matter with the Foreign Office. We have informed them this is a matter for the police.”

Mr Baker had asked what contact there had been between the Foreign Office and Sheikh Mohammed over his daughter’s allegations.

The world’s top racehorse owner, Sheikh Mohammed has remained silent since the Guardian disclosed the existence of a police investigation into his daughter’s claims. Officers are trying to establish whether the events took place as described and whether any offence has been committed.

Cambridgeshire detectives have had difficulty in getting access to members of the Maktoums’ Newmarket staff, where the famous Maktoum racing stables are based. A small private plane is alleged to have flown Shamsa out of the UK in late August 2000.

Ex-employees at the Longcross estate in Surrey, where Sheikh Mohammed’s family were based in the summer, say they had to sign agreements which silenced them about Shamsa’s “escape”.

Lucy Stevenson, who became close to Shamsa as her riding instructor, told the Guardian there was chaos on the estate in mid July last year when Shamsa disappeared.

Staff at Longcross were sent out to scour the surrounding area for any sign of her but Surrey police were not called.

Ms Stevenson, 29, had moved to another job. But, she said, she was approached after Shamsa ran away by a member of Sheikh Mohammed’s staff and questioned over Shamsa’s possible whereabouts.

She says she was later followed by members of the estate’s security staff, until she complained to police.