UK police receive letter from UAE princess urging probe

LONDON (AP) — Police in eastern England say they have received a long-delayed letter from an Emirati princess asking them to investigate the disappearance of her sister 20 years ago.

The letter is the latest episode in the long-running family drama of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the hereditary ruler of Dubai and a horse-racing acquaintance of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

One of his daughters, Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, made headlines last week when the BBC broadcast video diaries she said were recorded inside a Dubai villa where she claimed she was being held against her will. Sheikha Latifa was detained by commandos in 2018 after she tried to flee Dubai in a yacht.

Now Sheikha Latifa’s friends have given police in Cambridgeshire a letter from the princess asking authorities to look into the abduction of her sister Shamsa, now 38, who was snatched from Cambridge on Aug. 19, 2000, and hasn’t been seen since, the BBC reported Thursday.

“We can confirm officers have recently received a letter, dated February 2018, in relation to this case which will be looked at as part of the ongoing review,” Cambridgeshire police said in a statement. “In addition to this, we are also looking at the contents of the recent BBC Panorama documentary to identify whether it includes anything of significance to our case.”

Police declined to release further information, saying this is a “complex and serious” case that would be “inappropriate to discuss publicly.”

The BBC reported that friends of the princess turned the letter over to police on Wednesday. It was written in 2019 after Latifa had been detained, but she dated it February 2018 so that her captors wouldn’t know she had a way of communicating with the outside world, the BBC said.

“All I ask of you is to please give attention on her case because it could get her her freedom,” Latifa, 35, wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the BBC. “Your help and attention on her case could free her.”

Shamsa was staying at her father’s estate in the village of Longcross, west of London, in the summer of 2000 when she tried to escape. She later disappeared from a hotel in Cambridge and was spirited back to Dubai.

The cases are particularly sensitive in Britain because of economic and historic links to Dubai, a member of the United Arab Emirates that has built hotels and resorts to diversify an economy once based on exploiting large energy reserves. Sheikh Mohammed is the founder of the successful Godolphin horse-racing stable and is on friendly terms with Queen Elizabeth II.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last week called Latifa’s videos “very distressing” but suggested there was little the government could do because she is not a U.K. national.

The United Nations human rights office on Feb. 19 said it had raised concerns about Latifa’s treatment with the UAE and asked it to provide evidence that the princess was still alive.

In response, the UAE’s embassy in London issued a statement saying the princess was being cared for by her family and medical professionals.

The sheikh’s family life was thrust into the news in 2019, when his estranged wife, Princess Haya, fled to London and sought custody of her two children through the British courts.

Last year, the judge hearing that case ruled that Sheikh Mohammed had conducted a campaign of fear and intimidation against Princess Haya and had ordered the abduction of Shamsa and Latifa.

The sheikh had told the the court he was relieved at having found his “vulnerable” daughter Shamsa after she went missing.

Latifa’s supporters last week urged Joe Biden to pressure Sheikh Mohammed to release her, saying the U.S. president is one of the few world leaders with the stature to win her freedom.

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