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Just a note that you can get all four episodes of the Runaway Princesses ad free right now at New dark. Hi, it's Madeline Barron. As you may know, the in the dark team joined the New Yorker and Conde nast a few months ago. Since then, we've been hard at work on season three of in the dark. It's a big one, and I can't wait for you to hear it. Season three will be out later this year, and we're also working, working with our new colleagues to develop some of the New Yorker's most ambitious reporting into podcasts. I'm really excited to bring you our first collaboration today. Here it is.


Hello. My name is Latif Al Maktoum. I was born on December 5, 1985. My father is the prime minister of UAE and the ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Saidan Maktoum.


In February of 2018, a princess from the royal family in Dubai sneaked over to a friend's apartment and recorded a video.


I'm making this video because it could be the last video I make.


It was part of a secret plan.


That took her years to put together.


To escape from Dubai. The plan involved an inflatable dinghy and jet skis and a yacht secretly waiting out in the Indian Ocean. Princess Latifah left her video with friends. She told them to release it if something went wrong.


And if you are watching this video, it's not such a good thing. Either I'm dead or I'm in a very bad situation.


She said. I don't know what's happening outside. I hear gunshots, men.


And then we just heard nothing. It was just complete blank.


Where are they?


What have they done to them?


Are they dead? Are they not dead? How did this video get to us? What the hell do we do now?


There is one suspect, her father, the sheik.


I'm Madeline Barron, and this is the runaway princesses from in the dark and the New Yorker. It's a story from my colleague Heidi Blake. She's an investigative reporter.


I've been investigating Dubai's royal family and its powerful leader and trying to answer the question, why do the women in Sheik Mohammed's family keep trying to run away?


Heidi got access to communications between Princess Latifah and her friends, letters and texts and audio and video recordings, too, things that no journalist had ever reported before.


We're going to tell you the story.


Of what Heidi uncovered in four episodes.


This is episode one, sisters.


So, Heidi, where do we start?


Well, it starts back in 2017.


Heidi, hello? It's Colin Sutton.


Colin. Hey, how are you doing? So I was talking to a source of mine in the UK, a detective called Colin Sutton. While we were talking, Colin mentioned a case that he'd started to investigate years before that he just couldn't get out of his mind.


There was this allegation that had been made by a sex worker who said that she'd been picked up in London and then taken to an address in Surrey, where she'd been held for a number of days and abused.


So this was a 20 year old woman who said that she'd been picked up in London by a chauffeur and then driven back to this extraordinarily opulent manor house at the center of a sweeping estate in Surrey. And she said that while she was there, she'd been held captive for several days and repeatedly raped by a man who she said was a member of Dubai's ruling family. He said that this woman had finally got away from the house and had gone straight to the police to report the crime. And he got a call from the dispatch room telling him to go out and investigate. But when he was on his way to start looking into this, he got a call from another officer he knew, a guy who worked in Special Branch, which is the secretive unit of the british police that deals with national security matters.


He was adamant that we can't do anything about it. It had come from on high, from the Home Office, even, that it will all be sorted and payments will be made and it will all be swept away.


He said that it was all going to be worked out privately, government to government, and that this woman would be paid for her time. Well, when I asked Surrey police about it, they told me the reason they had to drop the case was it wasn't possible to identify the perpetrator the woman had accused. But Colin told me the guy from special Branch had told him that wasn't the real reason. The real reason, he said, was that the estate where this rape had allegedly happened is owned by one of the richest and most powerful people in the world, a man with connections to world leaders, not just in Britain, but all around the globe. His name is Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. And what Colin told me was that the british government didn't want to damage its valuable relationship with him.


Sometimes things that involve national security or things that involve great questions of state and the whole country are deemed to be bigger than one individual's crime or one individual's victimization, and we might not like it. But I was realistic enough to understand that that's the way the world worked, and that was what was going to have to happen.


That is an incredibly rare thing to hear a police officer admitting. He was actually telling me. I was told to drop a case for political reasons. That's almost unheard of. I should note that a spokesperson for Surrey Police said their inquiry was thorough and there was no evidence of government meddling. But when I dug more into the sheik who owned that estate, I found that this was far from being the only time that a woman had tried to escape one of his properties after claiming that she'd suffered appalling abuses. Nor was it the only time that powerful foreign governments had taken his side.


So tell me a little bit more about this sheik.


So, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid is the absolute ruler of Dubai, and he's also the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, and it's a small but incredibly wealthy country. Sheik Mohammed is, in his own right, one of the world's richest people, and he lives a life of extraordinary glamor and opulence. There was one summer when he and one of his wives spent $2 million on strawberries.


$2 million on strawberries?


Yeah, on strawberries. Although when I told my editor this story, he said that that did sound about right for organic editor jokes.


Okay, so he's incredibly wealthy, obviously. Where does all this money come from?


Well, it started with oil, but it's much more than that now. He's poured the country's vast riches into this enormous global property portfolio. I mean, this is the guy who basically created Dubai from scratch. Like it was a tiny fishing village when he was born. And he's the guy who's credited with almost single handedly crafting this vision for this country to just spring almost overnight from the desert with its incredibly famous skyline.


Skyscrapers rise in clusters, man made islands rise from the sea. And it is all the vision of one man, Sheik Muhammad bin Rashid Amaqtoum.


This is where we're standing now.


All this is nothing. This was desert.


And look now, all what you see.


Dubai's airport is now the world's busiest international hub. And Dubai has the world's tallest building and its most luxurious hotel. And even an indoor ski slope with live penguins.


Live penguins?


Live penguins, no less. Like everything they do, they do on this incredibly extreme scale. They have these man made islands, like, there's one in the shape of a palm tree, and then there's another archipelago, which represents a map of the entire world. And there are even plans to build a gigantic replica of the moon. It's going to cost $5 billion and they're planning to perch it on top of one of the city's tall buildings.


It's like this fantasy place where someone can come up with the wildest thing and they're just like, we have all the money. Let's just make it. And let's make it on an extraordinary scale.


Right? And it's all at the direction of the ruler, Sheik Mohammed. And he's a really fascinating character. So at home in Dubai, he cultivates the image of a traditional arab leader. He styles himself as a family man and he writes Nabati poetry, which he publishes on his instagram page and on YouTube and on his own website. It's pretty florid. Sheh Muhammad is also a champion endurance horseman. He's the world's biggest owner of thoroughbred race horses. Horses have a really special place in Bedouin culture, but his stature in international horse racing also earned him a valuable relationship with the late queen of England, who herself had a passion for the sport.






She would actually often invite him to sit with her in the royal box at Askurt. And he's close to a lot of really powerful people. He's a very important strategic ally to western governments, particularly after 911, when Dubai really cracked down on terror financing through its banks and also became the US Navy's biggest foreign port of call. And he's also poured tens of billions of dollars of UAE's money into the economies of both the US and Britain. And he's personally one of Britain's biggest private landowners.


And it's his connection to Britain that got you really interested in the story. Right.


Right. He seemed to have so much power and influence here and I wanted to understand more about how he was using it.


So how do you get started investigating someone like this, someone this wealthy, this powerful, this connected?


Well, one of the things I guess I've kind of learned over the years, particularly reporting on some of the super rich and powerful oligarchs who fell foul of the Kremlin, was that these people are surrounded by so many servants and aides and fact totems and kind of helpers of so many kinds that they forget that these people are human beings who kind of have eyes and ears and consciences and sometimes feel uncomfortable about things that they're seeing and people who maybe might one day decide to talk to somebody like me. And so I figured, well, let's go talk to some of those guys.




Oh, hello. Is that Mr. Sinobad?


Yes, speaking.


Hi. Yes, Heidi here at the New York. So while I was rooting around, looking at Sheik Mohammed's former employees, I saw that there was one man who'd filed an unfair dismissal claim against him. And this guy had worked for Sheik Mohammed as a chauffeur for 17 years before he was let go. His name is jury Sinibad. I asked him what it was like working for Sheik Mohammed.


Well, it'll take a long time.


He said, it would take a long time to answer that question. And I said, well, great, let's take a long time. So we ended up talking for at least 2 hours on the phone that day. And then we spoke a bunch more times. And we met in person several times as well.


What did he tell you?


So he told me he'd worked with Sheik Mohammed for 17 years. And during that time, he told me. And actually, he told me this unprompted, I didn't even ask him about this. He just volunteered it, that he had been asked to bring limousines full of young women night after night back to the estate where Sheik Muhammad was staying. He didn't know exactly what was going on inside the house, but he just knew. He got a call when it was finished. And when he drove them home, they'd be counting money in the back of the car. The women were obviously well compensated for what they were doing. But he told me that some of them really weren't happy. And he was haunted in particular by the memory of one young woman. He remembers picking up a group of them at the estate at the end of one night and dropping them back in London.


They all came out, but she stayed in the car, crying and blood at the seats.


Blood on the seats?


Yes, it was blood next to her, where? It was sitting on the floor.


On the floor.


It made me feel sick. Now she was shivering like somebody who cried but doesn't cry loud like a dog. I don't know if you understand what I mean.


I know what you mean. Whimpering.




Yes. Yeah. And then he told me another really awful story as well. He said there was another occasion when a woman had tried to escape from the house and had been chased into the bushes and beaten by a member of Sheik Mohammed's staff. He said that she came out half clothed and he was then tasked with driving her back to London. And he noticed when she got into the car that her body was covered in bruises. And he told me that she cried all the way. Know. After speaking with him at length, I tracked down a group of other drivers who'd worked for Sheik Mohammed over the years, as well as some of his former bodyguards and other members of staff. And several of them confirmed what Sinabat had told me about the way that these carloads of women were brought back to the estate every night. We should note that Sheik Mohammed's attorneys deny that he exploited sex workers.


So you were the first reporter to really figure out that this was going on, and that would have been a big story all by itself. But you end up reporting that it's not just sex workers who are trying to escape from the sheikh's palaces and getting no help from police.


No, because the next thing I learned was that several women in Sheik Muhammad's own family had also tried to run away from him, including two of his own daughters. These women were willing to risk everything to get free of his control, even their own lives.


Tell me what life is like for the women in Sheik Mohammed's family.


Well, the first thing is it's a big family. Sheik Mohammed has married at least six women and there are dozens of children. And the royal women are kind of paraded as emblems of female advancement. One of Sheik Mohammed's daughters was recently featured on the COVID of Vogue Arabia, and another of them is a taekwondo athlete and represented UAE on the Olympic polo team. And this is all part of an image that Sheik Mohammed has carefully curated. He's built a reputation as a champion of women's rights in the region in his efforts to build relationships with western governments. In particular, recently, his government passed a law guaranteeing women equal pay for equal work, for example. And he's elevated nine female leaders to cabinet positions. And many of those women's rights initiatives are actually spearheaded by another of his daughters.


So it sounds like in public, it's this life of glamor and glitz and independence, but it sounds like, from what you're saying, that's not really what's happening behind the scenes.


No. Well, exactly. So, as I reported out this story about Sheik Mohammed, I obtained a real trove of letters and audio recordings and videos from another of his daughters, Latifah. Hours and hours of audio and video and then just hundreds of letters and messages and texts and emails that she'd shared with friends over the course of a decade. And it provided just an extraordinary insight into what life is really like behind those palace walls for women in Dubai's royal family. Latifah was very careful to leave a record of her experience. She specifically said that she refused to allow the kind of misery and dehumanization she felt that she'd suffered at her father's hands. She didn't want that to be erased from the record. She wanted to make sure that an account of her experience survived. She knew that her life looked glamorous from the outside, but in her letters and in some of the videos she made, she recalls what sounds like a really awful childhood.


When I was six months old, my father's sister wanted me, so she took me away from my mom.


So Sheik Mohammed had actually taken Latifah and her younger brother away from their mother and given them as gifts to his childless sister. And his sister seemed to kind of collect stray children. Latifah later wrote that there were dozens of them kept in her palace.


So I lived for the first ten years of my life in the palace, believing that my aunt was, in fact, my mother.


I have one of Latifah's letters here, she writes. We were stuck upstairs in our rooms being minded by nannies. We never went out or had any fun. Life consisted of school and my room. It was horribly suffocating. Latifah recalled these bizarre occasions when her aunt would bring in teams of photographers. She wrote, they would dress me up like a doll in jewels, dresses and makeup, and sometimes they would bring in puppies or different animals to use as props. And as soon as the photo sessions were over, it would all be taken away. I found out that she used to send those pictures to my mother to show her how happy and spoiled I was when the reality was completely different. I remember as a kid always being at the window, watching people outside and wishing I was free. And she said that her aunt, who she thought at the time was her mother, was also abusive. She described one really awful incident where her aunt apparently burst into the room where she was with some of the other kids and beat them till their bodies were covered with welts. Latifah had no idea that she had sisters.


Occasionally she was sent to visit her biological mother and the two sisters who still lived with her. But she thought that her mother was her aunt and that her sisters were her cousins. One of those girls made a particular impression. Shamza was four years older than her, and Latifah wrote to a friend that she seemed full of life and adventure. She was a real thrill seeker, but also a compassionate person. And then when Latifah was around ten, she learned the truth. Her aunt turned out to be her mother and Shamza was her sister.


So, yeah, for the first ten years of my life, I was living a lie. Then I discovered who I was. And I was fighting to go live with my mom. Ashamsa was fighting for us to go live with her.


So somehow, Shamza, this 14 year old kid, managed to persuade the family to allow Latifah and her brother to go back and live with her real mother. And with Shamza, I saw her almost.


As a mother figure because she really cared about me. I would speak to her every single day. I always saw Shamsa as this person who rescued me.


Finally, Latifah was reunited with her family. But actually, life in her mother's house was far from ideal. The girls weren't allowed to pursue higher education, and that was something that caused a lot of conflict between Shamza and Sheik Mohammed. He had earlier been quite affectionate with his daughters. He apparently liked to hug and kiss them unreservedly and was quite a doting father of his little girls. But as they grew towards maturity, the relationship became more strained and Latifah recounted one occasion when Sheik Mohammed had punched Shamza repeatedly in the head for interrupting him. I should say that Sheik Mohammed denies mistreating his daughters in any way. But then one day, Shamza told Latifah that she was planning to run away and she asked whether Latifah wanted to come too. But Latifah was just 14 and she was afraid. So Shamza went without her.


In 2000, my sister Shamsa, she was 18 years old, going on 19. While she was on holiday in England, she ran away.


Every summer when Dubai got too hot, Sheik Mohammed would bring a selection of his wives and children to the UK and they would stay at the long cross estate in Surrey, which is the same house that that sex worker had escaped from, actually, around the same time as Shamza made her escape. The estate is really heavily guarded. It's surrounded by high fences and patrolled by border guards, and the members of the family are constantly guarded by bodyguards. But one night, when everybody else was asleep, Shamza somehow managed to slip out into the darkness and find a Range Rover that had been left unattended outside. She'd never been allowed to learn to drive, which was one of the things that she'd really railed against. But she managed to start the engine and veer off into the night, eventually reaching the border wall, where she ditched the vehicle and slipped out through a gate.




Yeah. It was a really audacious scheme for this 18 year old to pull off.


Then what happened?


So the fact that she disappeared wasn't discovered till the following morning, when her bed was found empty. And then the abandoned vehicle was found near the border wall and Sheik Mohammed helicoptered in from his equestrian base in Newmarket to lead a search for her. Staff were sent fanning out on horseback and in cars to scour the area for her. And no one could find any clue as to her whereabouts, apart from her phone, which she dropped on the green outside the gate. Back in Dubai, Latifah heard from her sister. Shamza had somehow got hold of a new phone and she made contact.


So, yeah, she ran away. And the whole time she was communicating with me, I was happy for her, but at the same time, I was worried about her.


What was Shamsa doing when she ran away? Where'd she go?


So for a long time, almost nothing was known about what Shamsa did in those weeks after she escaped. For example, we have no idea what she was doing for money. I know from Lativa's records that the girls were given a certain amount of cash, pocket money. So Shamsa probably had some funds on her, but they must have been tight, because one thing I do know is that she initially moved into a hostel in a pretty gritty part of southeast London. And then eventually she moved in with a friend who she just met randomly on the run. It seems like to some extent, she kind of just lived as you might imagine a teenager would, having her first taste of freedom in a major city. Like, we know she dabbled with alcohol, kind of made new friends, but she also did something pretty smart. She contacted a lawyer.


She found a lawyer?


Yes. So she found this guy through the yellow pages, a lawyer called Paul Simon. And she just walked into his office off the street and told him she was a runaway princess, a member of the Dubai royal family, and that she wanted to claim asylum in the UK.


This is quite the walk in visit, I've got to say. This is just some random lawyer and he gets an actual visit from a runaway princess.


I know. Can you imagine? And this guy, he was just a small time immigration lawyer. He dealt with work visas and citizenship applications and suddenly there's like a real live princess on his doorstep saying, help me, I've escaped. And he just didn't know what to do with it. So Paul Simon wouldn't talk to me for this story. He cited attorney client privilege, but he noted in records at the time that he'd told Chamza her case was very unlikely to succeed, given the friendly relations between the UK and the UAE. And he'd also told her it would be almost impossible to help her without her passport, and she didn't have it. It was back with her family at Longcross.


So she doesn't have a passport. She's called up this random lawyer. She's maybe running out of money. What is she going to do?


Right, yeah, she was really running out of options and it seems like she was getting desperate and then she did something pretty rash. So she called one of her father's.


Security guards, one of her father's security guards, like the same people that were trying to find her.


Right, I know. And I found it really hard to get my head around this when I was piecing all of this together. But one of the things I found out was that Shamza had a real soft spot for this guy. He was a security guard called Grant Osborne. And one of her friends said that she really tried to get close to him that summer, but he'd rebuffed her. And I think you just have to think, like, she's absolutely out there on her know, in a totally strange city. She's never been out alone before, let alone spending weeks on the run in hostels, running out of cash. And she's got this lawyer she's found in the yellow pages who can't help her. She's just really, really vulnerable and naive. And I guess this guy was one adult in her life who she thought she could trust, like someone she had some affection for. And she turned to him.


So what happened?


So Grant Osborne agreed to meet her and he arranged to take her to Cambridge. He booked a room for a couple of nights at the university arms, which is the city's oldest and grandest hotel. When I tracked him down, by the way, Grant Osborne refused to talk to me. But he did say that this account contained incorrect and false information, although he wouldn't point to specifics.


So they meet up. And what ends up happening then?


Well, right towards the end of August, Shamza and Osborne were captured on CCTV leaving the hotel together. She was visibly drunk and they climbed into a car. He got in the driver's seat and he drove her to a nearby bridge. And then suddenly he pulled over and jumped out. And it turned out to be an ambush. Four emirati men jumped into the car. Shamza later recalled that they were armed. They drove her back to her father's estate at Newmarket and she spent a miserable night in the manor house. Then, at first light the next day, she was hustled out of the country. Sheik Mohammed's attorneys denied that Shamza was taken from England against her will. But before she vanished, Shamza had managed to make one last desperate phone call to say that she'd been abducted and was being held captive to beg for help.


So who did Shamza call?


Well, we don't know quite who she meant to call, but she ended up leaving a message on the answering machine of a woman in Surrey called Jane Marie Allen, who was actually away at the time on holiday. So Jane Marie Allen came home about ten days later and she found this message on her answering machine from a woman she didn't know. The caller said she'd been returned to Dubai against her will and she asked that her lawyer, Paul Simon, be alerted. Jane Marie Allen called the police. She told them that she had no idea who this person was. She'd noted down her name as Shamza, S-H-A-N-S-A. But whoever she was, she was clearly in trouble.


So this is a lucky break that the person who Shamza apparently randomly calls takes this strange voicemail seriously and calls the police.


Right? Yeah, it seems like this is just a wrong number, but this woman kind of had the gumption to. Huh. This person sounds like they're in dire straits. I will call this in. And the police did actually make contact with Paul Simon and he told them about the meetings that he'd had with Shamza and who she was. And then the case was referred to Special Branch, which is this secretive division of the british police who at that time handled all matters of national security. Special Branch got in touch with the Dubai royal family. And the police log, which I have here, says that representatives of the family told them that they, quote, had no knowledge of the name given or any such incident. And so just like that, the case was dropped.


So Shamza is saying, I'm being held against my will. They call the people who are allegedly holding her against her will. They say, it's all fine and they say, okay, bye, thanks, we'll end it.


That's the end of that. And this is like one of the first of many incredibly frustrating moments where Shamza and other women have the guts and the resourcefulness to get the word out that they're trying to escape, that they need help and authorities just look away every time.


And what was the reasoning that they gave for dropping it?


Well, so in the police log, it says that they'd agreed with Simon that if Shamza had a phone, then surely she could just call the police herself. She didn't need his help. But they were wrong about that. Shamsa clearly had access to a phone for a while during the kidnapping, but by then she was being held completely incommunicado in prison. So six months later she had to devise an even trickier way to get yet another message to her lawyer. This time, she persuaded one of the prison attendants to smuggle out a note which was hidden in her hair.


In her hair. So Shams is taking a huge risk. But it also sounds like this woman who works for the royal family is also taking a huge risk, helping her smuggle out this secret note.


Right. This story contains so many extraordinary feats of daring by people who were willing to take huge risks to help these princesses who were in trouble. At the same time as you have these incredibly frustrating examples of official incompetence, or worse, on the part of people who actually did have the power to help and chose not to.


So what does the note to her lawyer say?


So I actually have the note right here. It says, I don't have time to write in detail. I'm being watched all the time. So I'll get straight to the point. I was caught by my father. He sent four arab men to catch me. They were carrying guns and threatening me. They drove me to my father's place in Newmarket, where they gave me two injections and a handful of tablets. The very next morning, a helicopter came and flew me to the plane, which took me back to Dubai. I'm locked up. Until today, I haven't seen anyone. Not even the man you call my father. I told you this would happen. I know these people. They have all the money, they have all the power, they think they can do anything. You said that if he kidnapped me, you would contact the home office and involve them. Now, I am not only asking you to report this immediately, I'm asking your help. And to involve the authorities. Involve everyone.


Wow. This is a remarkable note, I've got.


To say, isn't it? Yeah. Like she couldn't be clearer. She's like leaving him under no illusion. Here, I want your help. Raise the alarm. Involve everyone. Call the authorities, get me out of here.


So then what happens?


Simon does call the police again and this new report trickles slowly through the system over several months back through the secretive echelons of Special Branch. And then one morning, it lands on the desk of another police detective in Cambridge named David Beck.


My initial reaction was, this is a strange thing to land on a DCI's desk.


So Beck was a DCI, a detective chief inspector in Cambridgeshire, he's now retired. He told me that the day he heard about Shamza's abduction, he was in his office in the police station in Cambridge and he actually had a view from that office of the very hotel, the university arms, where Shamza had been staying before she was abducted.


The university Arms Hotel is literally 100 yards away.


Oh, wow. So she had been snapped from right under your noses?




Amazing. My goodness.


So he didn't actually see it happen?


He didn't see it, but he ordered up a copy of the CCTV from the hotel and that's when he saw Shamsa getting into the car with Osborne. And it didn't look to him like she was struggling.


That was part of the inconsistencies, if you like, of the initial investigation, which is why I thought, well, hang on, are we just talking about a stroppy teenager? Because my daughters were the same age as Shamza at the time and it's a difficult time. So are you just trying to make trouble for your father or are you serious about this?


So it sounds like he's trying to weigh whether to do anything.


Yeah. Again, Shamza's fate is kind of in the balance, know, based on what this guy decides and how seriously he decides to take her. But David Beck called Simon and then Paul Simon gave him a big break. So Shamsa had been totally incommunicado, completely out of reach up until this point. But Simon told Beck that by now she'd got hold of another phone.


How'd she get another phone? Do we know?


So it was actually Latifah who'd managed to smuggle it to her. She'd hidden it in a bundle of clothes that she had delivered to Shamza. And then Simon gave Beck the number and Beck called it and Shamza answered.


She seemed anxious to tell me as much as she possibly could as quickly as possible.


So Beck noted down what Shamza had told him in a memo at the time and I got a hold of it. It says that Shamza gave him the names of the four men who she said had ambushed her on the bridge and that she told him that they drove her back to Dallham hall where she said she was forcibly sedated and then flown to France by helicopter before she was taken by private jet to Dubai.


So if this happened the way that Shamsa is describing it, this is a crime, right?


Right, exactly.


She'd been abducted. Shamsa wasn't a child at the time. She was 18 and met her under UK law, was perfectly entitled to make her own life decisions.


Detective Beck found a ton of evidence that supported what Shamza had told him about the way she was abducted. And then word of his investigation leaked. The Guardian newspaper in the UK ran a story which mentioned that Shamza had talked to detectives by phone. And all of a sudden, after that, Shamza lost all contact with the outside world again.


So the phone is probably gone. Right?


Right. Like Latifah said, that she had no way of getting in touch with her. You know, Shamza had worked so hard to establish that line of communication with the outside world and then again and again to get the word out to the authorities that she wanted their help, that she didn't want to be held in Dubai, that she wanted her freedom. And now she's just in the dark, completely on her own, out of contact. And David Beck is her only hope. And so what he did next was he tried to get permission to travel to Dubai to take a statement from her. And the way that works in the UK is that those requests are filed through the Crown Prosecution Service. On this occasion, Beck was told that this was going to have to be routed through the foreign office, which was the first unusual thing. And then the next thing he heard was that permission had been refused.


Why did they refuse it?


Well, Beck said that they didn't give him a reason and actually, he didn't even ask. It was kind of what he'd been expecting to happen.


It was annoying, really, because yet know this diplomatic community thing, and because you're a rich and powerful person, you can effectively break any law you want in our country and get away with it. That's always stuck in my crawl. But those sort of decisions are taken way above my pay grade, and you just got to go with it as the fact that it's happened and move on, I suppose.


So he dropped the case?


Yeah. Once again, the cops dropped the case and just totally abandoned Chamza to her fate. What he called it was an undetected crime. It's what you and I might think of as an unsolved crime.


As things stand, there is an undetected crime of kidnap on Cambridge Constabulary's files, for which there is one suspect, her father, the sheik.


So essentially, it sounds like he dropped it because of this interference from the government that was getting in the way of him being able to investigate.


Well, it certainly looked that way. And so this was kind of an extraordinary thing, because, like I said before, it's an incredibly difficult thing to get any police officer to talk about a moment where their work was stymied for official reasons. These are just not things that the cops open up about. And yet here we have a second police detective saying that his investigation was blocked for political reasons. And both of these cases relate to the same man, to Sheik Mohammed like, this just seems to keep happening around him. The Foreign Office declined to respond to my detailed questions about Shams'case, and the government has always denied that it interferes in law enforcement in any way. But whenever the government has been asked to disclose their files relating to the investigation of Shamsa's case, they've consistently refused to do so for a reason that I find revealing. They've said that releasing those files would, quote, reduce the uk government's ability to protect and promote UK interests.


That's interesting. So they're saying that letting the public see whatever is in the Foreign Office's files about Shamsa's abduction, that that would somehow be bad for the UK's interests.


Exactly. And doesn't that just kind of say it all?


So Shamsa had tried to escape. That escape had failed. She's back in Dubai. Meanwhile, her sister Latifah is watching all this.


And we know from Latifah's records that this was excruciating for her. She wrote that her sister was kept drugged to keep her docile, and she was watched all around the clock. And gradually it became obvious to Latifah that no one from the outside world was coming to help them. She felt like Shamza was the one who'd rescued her from her aunt's palace all those years before. And now it was her turn to save Shamza. She was still only a teenager, but she decided the only way to help Shamza was to find a way to escape herself.


That's next time on the runaway princesses.


The runaway princesses was written and produced by Catherine Winter and Heidi Blake. It was edited by Samara Freemark, willing Davidson and me, Madeline Barron. Sound design by Chris Jewelin and Samara Freemark, with original music by Chris Jewelin. Our art is by Malika Favreau. Additional editing and production by Natalie Jablonski. Fact checking by Elen Warner and Teresa Matthew. Art direction by Aviva Michaelov. Legal review by Fabio Bertoni and Kamesha Laurie. Our managing editor is Julia Rothschild. The head of global audio for Kande Nast is Chris Bannon. The editor of the New Yorker is David Remnick. The second episode of the Runaway Princesses will be released in the in the Dark Feed soon, so stay subscribed to make sure you don't miss it. But if you want to listen to the whole rest of the series right now ad free, we've got a special offer for you. Go to New dark and subscribe to the New Yorker for just $1 a week. You'll be able to unlock the remaining episodes of the runaway princesses right away, and you'll get full access to everything else the New Yorker publishes. We're talking Ronan Farrow's investigation into Elon Musk, Catherine Schultz's Pulitzer Prize winning story about the earthquake that will devastate the Pacific Northwest.


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