Monday 20 October 2014

Earl's murder by Riviera call-girl is no pulp fiction

Published 27/05/2007 | 00:00

DAMON WAKE

in NICE

WITH its heady mix ofglamour, vice, drugs andaristocracy, the murder of the 10th Earl of Shaftesbury reads like the pages of a paperback thriller.

The final twist in the case came at the weekend when the earl's widow was found guilty of arranging hismurder.

Jamila M'Barek's brother Mohammed was alsoconvicted of carrying out the premeditated murder for her.

They were each jailed for 25 years after being found guilty by 10-1 majorities by the jury in Nice, in the south of France, on Friday. The defendants stood impassively in the dock as the presiding judge read out the guilty verdicts.

The badly-decomposed body of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, was found in a remote ravine in the foothills of the Alps in April 2005, five months after he went missing from his €190-a-night hotel on the French Riviera.

Jean-Louis Moreau, the state prosecutor, said Jamila M'Barek, 45, a former nightclub hostess who became Lord Shaftesbury's third wife in 2002, paid her brother Mohammed M'Barek €150,000 to murder him.

She wanted her estranged husband dead so that he could not divorce her and deny her the chance to inherit properties in France and Ireland.

Her 43-year-old brother killed the 66-year-old peer during a drunken row in November 2004, but claimed throughout his trial that he strangled him "accidentally".

With her copper-coloured hair, designer jeans and obvious cosmetic surgery, Jamila M'Barek was every inch the high-class Riviera call-girl.

Two-and-a-half years on remand had done nothing to break her spirit and the immaculately manicured widow smirked and pouted as she was tried for her late husband's murder.

She twirled her hair girlishly as she gave evidence, cocking her head to one side as she told of her love for "le comte de Shaftesbury", though her professions of conjugal devotion often trailed off into a mumbled "etcetera etcetera" as she spoke rather languidly, as if the whole judicial process was a bore.

She met Lord Shaftesbury in 2002. The circumstances of their meeting are disputed. Ms M'Barek claimed they met through a German friend but the manager of a Geneva escort service told the court she introduced them and said she knew Ms M'Barek was a "professional" - a prostitute.

Determined to put the hardships of her upbringing behind her, Ms M'Barek had managed to forge a life of luxury thanks to the generosity - or susceptibility - of a string of wealthy men across Europe.

Nicholas Ashley-Cooper, the late peer's second son and now the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury, said he did not believe Ms M'Barek ever loved hisfather. He said: "I believe that she is manipulative and scheming, and ultimately an evil person."

He also rejected the apology Mohammed offered the family in court earlier last week, saying: "I do not forgive him, and will never forgive him as long as he does notadmit to the murder of myfather."

Ms M'Barek had initially claimed not to have helped her brother dispose of the earl's remains, but damning mobile phone evidence proved she had visited theremote spot where the body was found two days before the killing.

A conversation between Ms M'Barek and her sister - recorded in a prison hospital - during which she spoke of being an accomplice to the crime and paying her brother €150,000 cash left little doubt about her guilt.

The jury of seven women and four men took just two hours to reach the guiltyverdicts.

The prosecution saidthat by engineering aconfrontation between Lord Shaftesbury and her violent, unpredictable brother who had psychopathic tendencies, Ms M'Barek was "authorand accomplice" in thekilling.

Franck de Vita, MsM'Barek's lawyer, said it was a "bad day for justice", and added that he would launch an appeal.

The current earl told waiting reporters he would fight an appeal and "fight for the memory of my father".

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