Princess Latifa: The story behind tracking down a missing princess

·3-min read

The story behind the headlines of the Princess Latifa video messages is told today on the Sky News Daily podcast.

Investigative reporter Sanya Burgess, who was in secret communication with the daughter of Dubai's ruler, tells Sky News correspondent Katerina Vittozzi how the story came about.

For three years, the world had heard nothing from Princess Latifa, whose father Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum is one of the world's richest men.

She attempted to escape her family in March 2018 by sailing across the Indian Ocean but was brought back to Dubai in what the royal family say was a rescue mission.

They claim Princess Latifa had been tricked by criminals who wanted money.

Friends of the princess managed to smuggle a phone to her and Sky News was able to pass her questions in the spring and summer of 2019.

In the videos, she told her story in her own words for the first time.

Sky News can reveal Princess Latifa says:

• She was beaten, drugged and imprisoned in a jail

• She has been locked away in a royal villa with bars on the windows and placed under armed guard

• She is a hostage, wants her passport and to be free to leave the UAE

More videos released by Sky News show the sheika reliving the moment she knew her escape had failed when she heard men wearing boots boarding her boat.

The UAE embassy responded to the videos on Friday, releasing a statement thanking those who have been concerned for Princess Latifa and saying she is being cared for at home with support from her family and medical professionals.

They added: "She continues to improve and we are hopeful she will return to public life at the appropriate time."

Burgess, who works on Sky News' Data and Forensics unit, explains how she passed questions to the sheika, what steps she took to ensure the videos could be verified, and the unique ethical considerations that played into how and when the story could be published.

One key event impacting the reporting on this story was that what happened to Latifa was examined during a High Court battle between the sheikh and his now former wife, Princess Haya bint al Hussein.

In findings made public in March 2020, Sir Andrew McFarlane, presiding over the case, accepted the sheikh had been responsible for the kidnapping and detention of Latifa.

The senior British judge also accepted the princess's account that she had been drugged, beaten and detained following a previous escape in 2002.

Eyewitness testimony from Princess Haya was also accepted. She told the court she visited Latifa in December 2018 and found she "was held against her will" and "locked in a house, guarded from the outside and from the inside".

The sheikh rejected the judgment, accusing it of being biased.

In a statement released at the time, he said: "As a head of government, I was not able to participate in the court's fact-finding process. This has resulted in the release of a 'fast-finding' judgment which inevitably tells only one side of the story."