Unruly daughter of wealthy sheikh made a bid for freedom. But what happened next?

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

Young woman evaded perimeter guards and video cameras to slip through open gate

Longcross estate, Chobham (Photograph: Frank Baron/The Guardian)

It was the black Range Rover that started the panic, according to Sheikha Shamsa al-Maktoum’s friends. Abandoned near a stable block at her father’s sprawling Surrey estate, they say, its discovery one morning in mid-July last year confirmed the security staff’s worst fears: Shamsa had run away.

Shamsa’s former riding instructor and other insiders have told the Guardian how the unruly 19-year-old’s disappearance sparked chaos on the Longcross estate near Chobham in Surrey where her father, Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, installed his family every summer.

To undermine the vast security operation which her father had placed around his children apparently to protect them from kidnap attempts – highly trained close protection officers, perimeter guards, video surveillance and rigorously enforced security drills – Shamsa simply drove the Range Rover to a corner of the estate, dumped it and slipped through an open gate on to Chobham Common, friends say.

It was only when the vehicle was discovered the following morning that the alarm was raised, according to Lucy Stevenson, who worked with Shamsa and her sisters for five years. By then Shamsa had disappeared.

Desperate search

At Longcross, a desperate search operation swung into action, former employees said. Sheikh Mohammed flew in by helicopter from his racehorsing base in Newmarket to take charge of the hunt. All staff were sent out, on horseback or in cars, to search for the runaway. According to Ms Stevenson, the search found nothing except a mobile phone, which Shamsa is believed to have dropped on the common.

The Guardian revealed this week that Cambridgeshire police are investigating allegations from a woman describing herself as Shamsa who said that she was kidnapped from a street in Cambridge in August last year by members of Sheikh Mohammed’s staff and returned to Dubai against her will. She asked police for help via a British solicitor in March, and detectives are trying to establish whether events took place as the woman describes and whether any criminal offence has been committed.

Sheikh Mohammed has declined to comment on the investigation or the circumstances of Shamsa’s disappearance, which the Guardian put to him through his London office and through his London lawyer, Peter Watson at Allen and Overy.

Ms Stevenson, who worked for Sheikh Mohammed from 1992 until 1997, says she first heard about Shamsa running away when she received a phone call from a member of Longcross staff demanding to know whether Shamsa had made contact.

Although she had left Longcross to work at her mother’s stables, Ms Stevenson had remained