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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 May 2007, 18:43 GMT 19:43 UK
Marriage to earl 'was a curse'
Mohammed M'Barek and Jamila M'Barek in court
Mohammed and Jamila M'Barek say the earl was killed accidentally
The widow of the Earl of Shaftesbury, who is accused of paying her brother to kill her husband, has told a French court their marriage was cursed.

Former nightclub hostess Jamila M'Barek, 45, said she did not marry Anthony Ashley-Cooper for his money.

She said: "I had always been prosperous. Marrying him was a curse."

Ms M'Barek and her brother Mohammed both deny the murder charge saying the earl, who had homes in Hove and London, was killed during a drunken row.

The flamboyant earl was reported missing by his lawyer in November 2004.

'Lacked love'

The mysterious disappearance of the 66-year-old rich, playboy aristocrat gripped the French Riviera.

In April 2005, his body was discovered in undergrowth between Nice and Cannes.

Ms M'Barek told the court that on the 5 November 2004, an argument had blown up between her husband and brother, who were both drunk.

She said: "It was an accident between two people who had been drinking, that's it quite simply."

Ms M'Barek said Mohammed was sick after the fight and forced her to help him put the earl's body into the boot of his car.

She said the earl was tender throughout their marriage, but added: "He was a loner. He lacked love so he drank a lot. Deep down we are simple people. This was a curse."

Opening the case Nice court official Jocelyn Boyer said in November 2004 divorce proceedings had begun and Ms M'Barek feared she would be cut out of her husband's will.

Ms Boyer said that by having the earl killed it guaranteed Ms M'Barek would not be disinherited.

'Full responsibility'

The court was also told that Ms M'Barek transferred 140,000 Euros into her brother's account.

Testifying in his own defence, Mohammed M'Barek, 43, told the jury: "I am sorry to you. Pardon, please. It was only an accident. I hope that the family of my brother-in-law forgive me, his son, Lady Frances - pardon, please.

"If I deserve punishment, then give it to me. I take full responsibility for what happened. It all happened in one minute.

"I did everything I could to try and save him - I gave him mouth-to mouth. My sister is also a victim - I am the only one who is responsible for this affair," he added.

Earlier he said French justice was "scandalous" and appealed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy for help.

The 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, who was educated at Eton and Oxford in England, moved to France in 1999 and married for the third, and final, time in 2002.

He inherited his title from his grandfather at the age of 22, along with a 9,000-acre family estate in Dorset.

How the body was found in a shallow grave

Mobile led police to earl's body
07 Apr 05 |  Southern Counties
Earl's body 'is found in France'
06 Apr 05 |  Southern Counties
Earl's relative to be extradited
14 Mar 05 |  Southern Counties
Profile: Earl of Shaftesbury
28 Feb 05 |  England

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