A doctor who repeatedly furnished the Shah of Iran's youngest daughter with barbiturates is to be investigated by the Home Office and have his case considered by the General Medical Council.
Princess Leila Pahlavi, an aimless exile since escaping with her family during the 1979 revolution, died of a drug overdose in her London hotel suite. The 31-year-old, who once modelled for Valentino, was an emaciated shadow of her former self on her death bed, a victim of anorexia, bulimia, drug abuse and depression.
She repeatedly requested, and received, powerful sleeping tablets from the GP, Dr Mangad Iqbal, the inquest into her death was told on its resumption yesterday. The Chelsea doctor prescribed drugs to the princess before he had even met her, had written out "overlapping" prescriptions when courses had not been completed, and made only a "cursory" examination of his patient, the hearing was told.
At least two of the drugs supplied were "schedule two", with a similar classification to heroin, which are strictly controlled because of their addictive nature.
The Westminster coroner, Dr Paul Knapman, repeatedly questioned Dr Iqbal on when and how much he had prescribed. The court was told that the date on one prescription, which was supplied to police investigating the matter, had been altered.
"Following this inquest I will formally request of John Gerrard [of the Home Office Drugs Inspectorate] that he look into the systems operated by Dr Iqbal in respect of his issuing prescriptions for drugs in schedule two of the Misuse of Drugs regulations," Dr Knapman said.
Earlier Mr Gerrard had told the court: "I have concerns about the way the doctor prescribed and started treating a patient he had not seen. Whether that is unprofessional or unethical is a matter for the General Medical Council."
As he left court, Dr Iqbal said he was "sorry" about the death of the princess and he had "no problem" with his methods being examined.
In evidence, the GP, who was warned he did not have to say anything which might incriminate himself, insisted he had kept careful records and that his patient had not shown any sign of addiction. He did, however, admit it was a "bad thing" to prescribe drugs to someone you had not seen.
When she died Princess Leila – daughter of the King of Kings, the Light of the Aryans and deposed ruler of the Peacock Throne – had a combination of cocaine, painkillers and the barbiturate seconal in her system. She died of seconal or quinalbarbitone poisoning.
When she was in London the princess would often stay in a £3,150-a-week suite at the Leonard Hotel in Marble Arch.
When her body was found there were 16 different types of pills in her room, though their origin has not been traced. There was no suicide note, simply some tragic, romantic poetry she had written in French.
The socialite, who drifted between New York, Paris and London, had first been supplied with drugs by Dr Iqbal in the summer of 1999. He twice wrote out prescriptions for the "date-rape" drug Rohypnol and seconal – once in July and again in September.
When she eventually visited him in December, she refused to give any details such as medical history citing "security" as her excuse and the GP simply made a brief examination before supplying her with another barbiturate, tuinal. Twenty days later, he agreed to write another prescription for seconal after a telephone call from the princess.
It was not until she was back in England in February that the princess visited Dr Iqbal again at the Brompton Medical Centre and he wrote prescriptions for Rohypnol and seconal.
He said that on 16 May he had prescribed the same drugs along with the painkiller Palfium in three separate prescriptions during a visit.
The court was told that one of the prescriptions was dated 10 May while police laboratory tests showed another had its date altered to 16 May – a fact the doctor could not explain to the inquest.
On 7 June the princess turned up at the doctor's surgery in an emotional state and he agreed to write three similar prescriptions. He left the room and returned to find these, along with two more for other patients missing. The princess had also disappeared. The matter was not reported to police. Three days later, she was dead.
Dr Knapman recorded a verdict of death by non-dependent drug abuse.
A spokesman for the General Medical Council said: "We are aware of the coroner's inquiry and we will decide what if any action is to be taken."
Born to a life of opulence and privilege, Princess Leila was eight when her family fled Iran. The Shah died in Egypt in July 1980. The youngest child drifted between continents and from fashionable party to rehabilitation clinic.
Her mother, Queen Farah, said recently that she could not believe her child's death had been anything other than an accident but acknowledged she had been depressed and without a "sense of purpose in life".
Yesterday Dr Knapman added: "She was, it seems, a frail and unhappy person and I think that this has been a tragic end to a sad life."Reuse content