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The feisty princess who disappeared

Princess Shamsa as a teenager

When Princess Latifa of Dubai was caught trying to flee the city-state ruled by her father in 2018, it made headlines around the world. Yet the story of the grim fate that befell her older sister, Shamsa, is “almost entirely forgotten”, says Basia Cummings in The Forgotten Princess, a Tortoise Slow Newscast.

Two decades ago, Shamsa was a cheeky, unruly 18-year-old who bridled at her gilded cage. During a summer spent on the family’s Surrey estate, she would outgallop her bodyguards during riding lessons, and told her cousin in a letter that she would escape properly one day. In July 2000 she did exactly that, fleeing the estate on foot.

After a few weeks on the run, Shamsa is thought to have been kidnapped, kicking and screaming, on the streets of Cambridge, then drugged and flown back to the clutches of her father, Sheikh Mohammed, in Dubai. “I am locked up,” she wrote to a British immigration solicitor six months after her disappearance. “I told you this would happen. I know these people, they have all the money, they have all the power.” A British police investigation was mysteriously shelved after the then Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, became aware of it.

Sheikh Mohammed insists he flew Shamsa home to protect her from kidnap. But while her sister Latifa appears to be enjoying a little freedom in Dubai, Shamsa, now 40, has barely been seen in two decades. Someone who worked with the ruling family said she last saw her in 2016, looking “like a zombie”.

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