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Sheikh died after heroin overdose

THE ELDEST son of the ruler of Sharjah died of a heroin overdose at his family's English country estate, an inquest was told. Sheikh Mohammed bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi was found on the floor of his bathroom, surrounded by syringes and a tie strapped as a tourniquet around his arm.

The ruling family of Sharjah, part of the United Arab Emirates, had guarded details of the 24-year-old prince's death. In keeping with religious practice, his body was flown home within 48 hours. Flags flew at half- mast and newspapers carried a simple paragraph announcing his death. The UAE embassy said he had died of natural causes.

But yesterday his father, Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, was forced to disclose the true reason for his playboy son's end.

In a statement to the Eastbourne coroner's court, the sheikh described the moment he found his son's body on 3 April.

"My security guard broke the window of the bathroom. I went into the bathroom and I found him on his knees on the bathroom floor."

Detective Sergeant Roger Sealey of Sussex Police told the court that a syringe was found under the prince's leg. "There was the full paraphernalia of an intravenous drugs user. In the bathroom there were several syringes on the sink and a type of dessert spoon near by."

The prince had long been a worry to his father, who had chosen a younger son to succeed as ruler. Thrown out of an Arizona university and unable to settle on any profession, the prince had turned to heroin.

The court heard that the young man's father had been aware of his drug habit but was convinced he had weaned himself off it while doing training for the Sharjah police. He had not taken the drug for 18 months.

A Home Office pathologist, Dr Iain West, told the coroner the prince could have lost his tolerance of the drug and consequently his habitual dose had proved fatal. He died of opiate intoxication.

The father and son had flown to Gatwick the day before for a break at Wych Cross Place, the family's home near East Grinstead. On arrival the prince went to his room.

Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi said: "At midday the next day I went and asked my security staff if they had seen my son. His bags were still outside his room." The estate manager, Nicholas Tippett, broke in through the bathroom window but the prince had been dead for several hours.

The East Sussex coroner, Alan Craze, in recording a verdict that the prince died of a non-dependent abuse of drugs, said: "Nobody, however privileged and well-educated, is immune to ... drug addiction. He was dicing with death."