British woman gets 27 years for Tenerife killing

Families plan appeal as Spanish court finds bar owner guilty of ordering hitmen to kill her partner
A BRITISH businesswoman was jailed for 27 years yesterday for hiring two hitmen to kill her partner in Tenerife, the Foreign Office confirmed.

Jackie Ambler, 33, originally from near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, was sentenced along with the two men she hired to carry out the killing in the bar she ran with the victim Michael O'Hara, 39, from Wakefield.

The bouncers Stanley Stewart, 31, from Clackmannanshire, and Gary Holmes, 31, from Littlehampton, West Sussex, were each sentenced to 29 years' imprisonment - the most severe sentences reported to have been handed down to Britons in post- Franco Spain.

Ambler denied plotting the killing with the two men or promising to pay them hit money during the trial at Santa Cruz Provincial Court.

Mr O'Hara was beaten to death at the couple's British-style pub in Los Christianos in 1995. Ambler's father, John Ambler, 61, said the family was devastated by the news.

"We were all expecting her to be freed, so we hadn't made any contingency plans for this type of verdict. "Jackie's in a terrible state and I will be trying to organise a flight out there as soon as I can," said Mr Ambler, of Rossington, near Doncaster.

The family are now planning to contact their MP, Caroline Flint, and the pressure group Fair Trials Abroad in an attempt to get the verdict overturned.

"We can't understand how she could have been convicted. None of the prosecution's seven witnesses turned up and it just doesn't seem real," he said.

Stewart's mother Helen, 59, wept when she learned of the sentence.

Mrs Stewart, from Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, who last spoke to her son by phone over a week ago, said: "I don't know where to turn."

She added: "There is a chance of an appeal but I can't go over there in case he loses that. I couldn't face leaving him in jail."

She continued: "It's such a shock. He told me not to worry and everything would sort itself out. The whole family will be devastated as we were expecting him to come home," she added. I would like to see him freed and returned home like the British nurses from Saudi Arabia last week, but I can't afford to pay."

Mrs Stewart and her eight other children were unable to make it to the island for the trial.

And Stewart's brother said yesterday his family was devastated at the verdict. Paul Stewart, 29, insisted his brother was innocent of the murder. And he said relatives would now launch a campaign to clear his brother's name.