Widow of earl faces murder questions

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The widow of a British aristocrat bludgeoned to death in France has been placed under formal investigation for "assassinat", or premeditated murder.

French investigators suspect that Djamila M'Barek, 37, a nightclub hostess, hired her brother to kill the Earl of Shaftesbury because he was planning to divorce her after a two-year marriage.

Ms M'Barek, who is of Dutch and Tunisian origin, had previously been accused of being an accessory to a "voluntary homicide" committed by her brother, Mohammed.

The accusation against both brother and sister has now been upgraded to "assassinat", or premeditated murder, which carries a potential life sentence.

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, 66, a former RAF pilot who was educated at Eton and Oxford, spent much of his life on the French Riviera. He disappeared in November 2004 after booking into the Noga Hilton hotel in Cannes. His severely battered body was found in a woodland ravine in the French Alpine foothills in April last year.

Mohammed M'Barek has told investigators that he met the earl to try to persuade him not to leave his sister. They came to blows and the earl fell and died.