Campaigners acting on behalf of Princess Latifa, the captive Emirati Princess, have passed a letter to UK police allegedly urging them to reinvestigate the suspected kidnapping of her sister more than twenty years ago in Cambridge. In the letter, seen by the BBC, the Princess reportedly urges Cambridgeshire police to help free her sister, Princess Shamsa.
Princess Shamsa was allegedly abducted in July 2000, after slipping away from her family’s estate in Surrey, tracked down in Cambridge and then flown by helicopter to France and then by private jet back to Dubai on her father’s orders. She was 18 at the time and is now 39 (and has not been seen in public since). Princesses Shamsa and Latifa are both the daughters of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.
Latifa’s handwritten letter was passed to the Cambridgeshire force by her friends on Wednesday 24 February and it urges action for her sister by the British authorities. It was written in 2019 when she was being held in solitary confinement in what she alleges is a ‘jail villa’. According to the BBC the letter says: ‘All I ask of you is to please give attention on her case because it could get her her freedom… your help and attention on her case could free her. She has strong links to England… she really loves England, all of her fondest memories are of her time there.’
According to the BBC Latifa dated the letter February 2018, before her escape attempt, to avoid revealing that she had a way of communicating with the outside world while she was in captivity.
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire police said the letter would be looked at ‘as part of an ongoing review’. They added: ‘This is a very complex and serious matter and as such there are details of the case that it would be inappropriate to discuss publicly.’
The government of Dubai has not responded to the BBC’s requests for comment. A High Court judge ruled in 2019 that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum had abducted both daughters and held them against their will.
Last week, BBC Panorama broadcast videos Princess Latifa had secretly recorded on a phone she had been given, in which she described how she was being held ‘hostage’ by her father following a failed escape attempt in 2018. The UN has since asked the United Arab Emirates for proof that Latifa is alive.
In 2018, the Dubai Royal Court told the BBC that Shamsa was ‘adored and cherished’. The Sheikh’s only statement on the case has been to the High Court, and speaks of ‘relief’ at having found his ‘vulnerable’ daughter Shamsa after she went missing.
As reported in the BBC, Shamsa’s story prefigured what happened to Latifa 18 years later and played a key role in her decision to seek a new life abroad. It led directly to her failed escape on a boat in the Indian Ocean.
BBC News has also spoken to someone who had regular contact with Shamsa in Dubai: ‘You didn’t need to be a doctor to know that [she] was tranquilised all the time.’ The Sheikh’s connections in the UK are deep. He is a friend of the Queen and one of the biggest private landowners in the county. Successive UK administrations have viewed the UAE, of which Dubai is part, as a key strategic and business ally in the region.
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