Earl 'beaten to death by wife's brother after row about money'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

French investigators believe that the missing Earl of Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, was battered to death by his brother-in-law during a quarrel about money.

French investigators believe that the missing Earl of Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, was battered to death by his brother-in-law during a quarrel about money.

The 67-year-old's earl's third wife, who is accused of his murder, told investigators that her brother beat him to death and abandoned his body in a forest, the newspaper Le Parisien reported yesterday.

"I didn't want him to die. I just asked my brother to intimidate him so he would continue my allowance," the newspaper quoted Jamila M'Barek, 37, as having told detectives in Nice.

"But [the earl] didn't want to listen. A violent fight broke out. I went out of the room because I couldn't bear to look."

Other judicial sources said Mme M'Barek admitted being involved in the "criminal disappearance" of the 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, who was last seen in Cannes in November. Last weekend she was placed under formal investigation for homicide volontaire, or murder.

Her brother Mohammed M'Barek, 41, has been arrested in Germany. Judicial sources said he would be formally accused of murder when he is extradited to France, which may take a month or longer.

Mme M'Barek, of Tunisian and Dutch origin, married the playboy earl in 2002. According to leaks from the investigation to the French press, he decided to divorce her last year. He is said to have met another club hostess, Nadia, 32, and installed her in a flat in Vence, a town in the hills behind the French Riviera. When Nadia became pregnant, Le Parisien reported, the earl was "mad with joy" and decided to divorce Mme M'Barek.

Maître Franck de Vita, Mme M'Barek's lawyer, told journalists that relations between the two were good and there was no quarrel over money.

"Her husband had given her the flat in which they lived in the wealthy Californie area of Cannes, and also a magnificent mill in the Gers (southwestern France)," M. de Vita said. The earl was also paying her a monthly allowance of €7,000 (£4,800).

Mme M'Barek, who met the earl while she was a bar hostess in Versailles near Paris, is now in the secure wing of a hospital in Nice, after suffering a nervous breakdown.

A source close to the investigation said yesterday: "The interrogation of Mohammed M'Barek is now crucial ... It remains to be seen whether he will agree to be extradited. If so that will take about 10 days. Otherwise, with appeals, it could take several weeks."

There have been no signs of the flamboyant earl since he vanished from the Noga Hilton Hotel in Cannes on 6 November.

The Eton and Oxford-educated earl was due to return to the United Kingdom on 10 November after a holiday in Antibes, but last contacted family and friends on 4 and 5 November. His sister, Lady Frances Ashley-Cooper, who lives in the south of France, raised concerns with French police after her he failed to get in touch.

Reports suggested that the aristocrat was short of cash and was taking legal action after a theft. It is also reported that he was trying to recover some of the hundreds of thousands of pounds he had spent on Mme M'Barek.

Comments