Sheikh's missing daughter 'stayed at flat in London'

Stuart Millar and Jamie Wilson
December 21, 2001, The Guardian

The crown prince of Dubai’s daughter, who was allegedly kidnapped by members of her father’s staff, is believed to have been staying with an Australian friend in London shortly before her alleged abduction back to her father’s palace in Dubai.

Shamsa al-Maktoum, 19, is understood to have stayed in a flat in Elephant and Castle, south London, after fleeing in July last year from the vast Surrey estate belonging to her father, billionaire racehorse owner Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum. But mystery continues to surround her current whereabouts.

Sheikh Mohammed, who is a friend of the Queen, has remained silent since the Guardian revealed last week that Cambridgeshire detectives are investigating allegations made by Shamsa that she was picked up off a street in Cambridge in late August 2000 by members of her father’s staff and flown out of the UK against her will in a small private plane.

Detectives were initially able to speak to her by telephone in Dubai several times and have been trying to establish whether events took place as she described and whether any criminal offence has been committed.

Last weekend Sheikh Mohammed made no response to the allegations when he visited Britain to watch two of his sons graduate from the military academy at Sandhurst. Media in Dubai have so far not published the allegations.

The Australian connection may shed new light on Shamsa’s movements after she left the Longcross estate in Surrey. Until now, it was unclear whether she had any friends outside the tight circle of family and staff who could have helped her.

Former members of staff at Longcross have said she dodged security guards by driving a Range Rover to a corner of the estate and slipping through an open gate at night.

They say her father flew in by helicopter from his racing stables in Newmarket after the abandoned Range Rover was discovered the following morning, to take personal charge of the search operation, which involved staff scouring the surrounding countryside in cars and on horseback. Shamsa is believed to have dropped a mobile phone as she made her way across Chobham common on foot.

The Guardian has tried several times to speak to Shamsa and her father about the police investigation, without success. The sheikh’s London lawyer, Peter Watson, said Shamsa was “in Dubai, where she lives happily with her family”.

Staff in Dubai say that she has not been seen in public since her return and has not visited the stables at her father’s Zabeel palace where she had previously ridden every day.

The Foreign Office has revealed that Sheikh Mohammed, the most high profile member of Dubai’s autocratic ruling family, tried to intervene with the British government over the ongoing police investigation, which began after Shamsa asked police for help via a British solicitor in March.

Detectives have had difficulty in getting access to members of the Maktoum staff in Newmarket, where the young woman claims she was taken before being flown out of the country.