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Gambler faces extradition over wife's death

A professional gambler was facing extradition today after allegedly killing his wife then dumping her body in a US national park and spending her money during a "playboy" weekend in Las Vegas.

Marcus Bebb-Jones, 46, was arrested in a dawn raid at his home in Kidderminster yesterday morning amid accusations he went on to spend thousands of dollars on her credit cards before botching a suicide bid.

Appearing at an emergency extradition court hearing in London, prosecutors representing the US Government claimed the poker player had shot himself in the head in a bizarre sequence of events after allegedly killing his wife in 1997. Her skull was not found until 2004.

An arrest warrant was issued by US authorities on October 30 this year, Aaron Watkins, representing the US Government, said.

Mr Watkins told the extradition hearing at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court: "On September 16 1997 he took his wife to a national park in Colorado where she was murdered.

"Thereafter he spun a number of stories which conflicted one another in order to explain her absence.

"On the weekend following that incident it is said Mr Bebb-Jones went to Las Vegas and spent thousands of dollars, partially using credit cards in his wife's name.

"He lived a playboy lifestyle during the course of that weekend which culminated in him putting a gun in his mouth and shooting himself in the head.

"Whether by judgment or design, he did not cause any life-threatening injuries."

The prosecution would not reveal the woman's name but said she was not of British nationality.

The suspect had been "obstructive" during police investigations into his wife's disappearance, Mr Watkins told the court.

He added: "In the subsequent investigation he didn't assist police and, indeed, was obstructive.

"He is also said to have been found in possession of a number of items that would have been in his wife's purse.

"Despite extensive efforts to clean the vehicle in which the murder is said to have happened, blood matching his wife's was found in many places in the vehicle.

"The upshot is that the case against him is very strong.

"This offence is so serious he faces life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

"There is no reason why Mr Bebb-Jones would surrender to the proceedings.

"He has won a large amount of money as a professional poker player so he has access to that money to aid him in his escape.

"He has international business connections and has recently returned from abroad. He also has the offer of a job in China which he was due to take up very soon."

Bebb-Jones, who has been living in Kidderminster with his mother since returning to the UK, was remanded in custody to appear again at the court on November 26.

Bebb-Jones, who has a teenage son, lived in the US for eight years but had since been in the UK for around a decade, the court heard.

The defendant, with close-shaved hair, spoke only to confirm his name during the hearing.

District Judge Daphne Wickham said there was "substantial" reason for him to remain in custody until the next court date.