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Last Updated: Friday, 25 May 2007, 20:06 GMT 21:06 UK
Sex and money tale of earl's murder
By Alasdair Sandford
BBC News, Nice

The 45-year-old widow of the Earl of Shaftesbury, former prostitute Jamila M'Barek, has been found guilty by a court in Nice of paying her brother Mohammed to murder her husband.

It was a case full of tales of sex and money.

The Earl of Shaftesbury and Jamila M'Barek
Anthony Ashley-Cooper and Jamila M'Barek were married in Holland

"I don't give a damn about money. Money, money, money!"

The outburst was out of character with her behaviour throughout most of the trial in Nice, when she sat impassively behind the glass screen. Neither did it tally with the truth.

For this case was very much about money. Jamila M'Barek and the late Earl of Shaftesbury met in 2002 as prostitute and client.

They began seeing each other as a couple and were married within nine months.

Two years later to the day she lured him to his death, afraid that their impending divorce would cut her out of his multi-million-pound will.

'Gentle soul'

Jamila M'Barek was born in France, the daughter of African parents and spent most of her childhood in Tunisia. She and her brother Mohamed were often badly beaten by their father.

In court, the earl's son accused them of showing no value for human life, by choosing to act even more violently than their father had been to them.

Nicholas Ashley-Cooper said his father was a "gentle soul" who descended into "alcohol and depression".

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, moved to France in 1999 - distraught, according to his sister, after the death of their mother.

In the bars and clubs of the Riviera his life became far removed from the one he left behind in Dorset, where he owned a 9,000-acre estate and was known for his interest in wildlife.

Manipulative woman

Catherine Gurtler, a Paris-based madam, told the court that she provided escort girls for the earl in France for seven years from 1995. Jamila M'Barek, the last of them, became his third wife.

Mohamed M'Barek and Jamila M'Barek in court
Mohamed and Jamila M'Barek were both jailed for 25 years

Nicholas Ashley-Cooper recalled the only time he met her, at a lunch organised by his father before the marriage.

Here, he thought afterwards, was a manipulative woman who would go a long way to get what she wanted.

When he next saw his father, two years later, the couple were heading for divorce.

Nicholas was optimistic his father would return to England where the family could keep an eye on him. But Jamila and her brother had other plans.

Remains found

The court heard how she had been taking steps to find out what the Earl of Shaftesbury's will would provide for her - and what she might lose if the marriage ended.

It included large properties in France and Northern Ireland, and numerous other benefits.

In early November 2004 the earl arrived on the Cote D'Azur from England.

The following day he went to see his wife at a flat he had given her in Cannes. He was never seen alive again.

His remains were found five months later in a ravine further down the Mediterranean coast.

Phone records

By this time Jamila had been arrested over the disappearance, while Mohamed had been extradited to France from his home in Germany.

Mohamed M'Barek admitted to strangling the earl and to taking his body away in his car boot.

He and Jamila tried to claim the death was a tragic accident - the result of a drunken brawl between both men but the trial revealed the extent to which it was a case of premeditated murder.

Jamila's mobile phone records reveal she had visited the remote spot where the body was dumped, two days before the killing.

In a prison interview taped by police she admitted to her sister that she had paid her brother 150,000 euros (102,000) to carry it out.

Proceedings interrupted

Mohamed failed to account for a bizarre 24-hour round trip to Munich on the day of the murder, to try to provide an alibi.

The trial saw several angry outbursts from Mohamed M'Barek, who sometimes caused an interruption in proceedings.

He and his sister were innocent, he cried; Lord Shaftesbury's family wanted to deprive Jamila of her rightful inheritance. It failed to convince the jury.

The case has fascinated many. It has had sex, money, murder - and revealed the clash between two very different worlds.

Yet the tale's end for Jamila and Mohamed M'Barek was far less glamorous: they are now beginning lengthy jail sentences.

Nicholas Ashley-Cooper talks about his late father

Widow guilty of murdering earl
25 May 07 |  England

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