Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum may be the ex that is often the antagonist of thriller movies. The court has found him guilty of attempting the use of the Pegasus Spyware to hack the phones of both his estranged wife, Jordanian Princess Haya bint al-Hussein and her lawyer as the custody battle for their two children progressed.

But that is not where he stopped. The Sheikh tried to buy one of the most expensive properties for sale in all of Britain. The property overlooked his ex-wife’s rural estate, and it appeared to be a “deliberate” act that was “intimidating”, as per a senior British judge.

Agents acting for him were mere weeks away from exchanging contracts on the 30-million-pound ($41 million) Parkwood estate when the sheikh’s team decided to pull out of the deal.

“There can be no doubt that this deliberate behaviour, both in negotiating a purchase and then withholding information about it, by those who are acting for the benefit of the Dubai ruling family, will have had the effect of intimidating this mother to a very marked degree,” Judge Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division in England and Wales said in a ruling published on Wednesday.

Previously, he had also ruled that the Gulf ruler had waged a threatening campaign against Haya since she fled to England in 2019.

Haya worries the Sheikh may go as far as abducting their two children.

“It feels like I am being stalked … the prospect of Sheikh Mohammed, or those on his behalf buying the properties around Castlewood is terrifying and utterly wearing,” she said in a written statement to the court.

Mohammed, 72, and Haya, 47, have been involved in a long, bitter and expensive custody battle since she fled to Britain with their two children, Jalila, 13, and Zayed, 9. She said she feared for her safety amid suspicions that she had had an affair with one of her British bodyguards.

According to her lawyers, they first got wind of the Sheikh’s plans in late 2019, and unsuccessfully sought confirmation. However, in late 2020, Haya received information that a trust connected to Mohammed was trying to buy the 72-acre Parkwood estate immediately adjoining Castlewood, which had been left to her by her father, the late King Hussein of Jordan.

After the sheikh’s lawyers failed to reply to requests from Haya’s legal team about the intended purchase, in November 2020 they responded to a direct request from the High Court to confirm the trust was in the process of buying Parkwood and it might pan out in the next few weeks.

That very month, those acting for the Sheikh confirmed they would not go ahead with the purchase of the estate, which McFarlane said “comprises, according to press reports, the most expensive development land currently on the market”.

However, Mohammed’s lawyer maintained that the trust behind the property dealings regularly sought commercial opportunities in the area.

The following month, the judge agreed to extend a “non-molestation order” against Mohammed.

This included a 100-metre exclusion zone around Castlewood for the father or those acting for him, a no-fly zone to stop aircraft or drones flying between the ground and 1,000ft above her estate, and a wider area in which he could not buy or rent any property.

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