Earl’s widow and her brother get 25 years in jail for murder
The alcoholic playboy who loved a series of escort girls was killed for his fortune
The widow of the 10th Earl of Shaftesbury was sentenced last night to 25 years in prison for organising his murder before he could seek a divorce and deprive her of a €2 million inheritance.
Jamila M’Barek, 45, a former escort girl who married Lord Shaftesbury after they were introduced by an agency, was found guilty of paying her brother, Mohammed, to strangle her husband in Cannes in November 2004.
After deliberating for two hours, the jury at Nice Criminal Court in Southern France also sentenced Mohammed M’Barek, 43, to 25 years in jail for his role in the premeditated murder. As the presiding judge, Nicole Besset, read out the verdict, the M’Bareks stood in impassive silence.
Nicholas Ashley-Cooper, Lord Shaftesbury’s 27-year-old son and the 12th Earl, said: “I don’t think we have seen any kind of remorse or compassion from the accused. I am very relieved that the week is over and I now want to start the next chapter of my life. I believe justice was done and I am satisfied with the outcome.”
The M’Bareks will exercise their automatic right to appeal under French law, forcing a complete retrial, their lawyers said last night. “That would obviously be an ordeal for us,” the young Earl said, “but we would meet it and fight for the memory of my father again.”
The jury declined to fix a tariff, meaning that they will be eligible for parole after half the sentence.
The four-day trial was told that Jamila M’Barek lured the 66-year-old Earl to her flat after he threatened to leave her for a former bar hostess. She feared that he would change his will. Waiting in the flat was Mohammed, who strangled Lord Shaftesbury before dumping the body in isolated woodlands, where it was found five months later.
The young Earl of Shaftesbury launched a scathing attack on his father’s widow yesterday, telling the court that she was manipulative, scheming and evil. Nicholas Ashley-Cooper also spoke in moving terms of his own relationship with his loving but vulnerable father, whom he said had suffered from alcohol abuse and depression.
Prosecutors said that Jamila M’Barek ordered the killing because she feared losing her €2m (£1.35 million) inheritance after Lord Shaftesbury had asked for a divorce.
Looking at the defendants across the court, Lord Shaftesbury’s son said that they were “cold, deceitful, without compassion for a man they murdered and betrayed”. He added: “I don’t understand how people can place no value on human life, and I truly pity them.”
The children of Tunisian immigrants, the M’Bareks had been abused by a violent father, the court heard. “I believe they had a choice not to follow in the violence and abuse their father showed them, and I believe they became even more violent than their father,” the 12th Earl said. Turning to Mohammed M’Barek, who claimed that Lord Shaftesbury’s death had been an accident and asked his family for forgiveness, he said: “I do not accept your apology.”
He then said: “Jamila, I do not believe that you ever loved my father, and I believe that you are manipulative and scheming, and ultimately an evil person. You caused the death of an innocent man and you caused my family a lifetime of hurt, and I hope that the jury give you the appropriate [verdict] for this crime.”
He described his father, educated at Eton and Oxford, as a gentle man who suffered from alcoholism and depression. “From a very early age I knew there was a problem with drink, and the drink took him from us, from the family,” he said.
Lord Shaftesbury became increasingly dependent upon alcohol and increasingly lonely, his son said. “He always felt like he needed to have someone there to cure the loneliness and despair he felt inside . . . He would try to obtain affection by offering money and gifts beyond his capabilities.”
2004 November 3: Lord Shaftesbury arrives in Nice.
November 4 and 5: Contacts friends and family for the last time.
November 5: The Earl has a meeting in Cannes with his third wife, Jamila M’Barek, 37.
November 6: He checks into a Cannes hotel – the last time he is seen.
2005 February 25: Jamila M’Barek is arrested and brother, Mohammed, 40, is questioned in Germany
April 5: Earl’s skeletal remains found in ravine
September: Mohammed M’Barek admits killing the earl “accidentally”
2007 May: M’Bareks convicted