Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Lough Neagh Earl in vow to strip title from murderess stepmother

12th Earl of Shaftesbury

The artistocrat who owns Lough Neagh has vowed to strip his family title from a woman jailed for murdering his father.

Nick Ashley-Cooper – the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury – wants his Tunisian stepmother, Jamila M'Barek, to lose her title, Countess of Shaftesbury.

"It's offensive that she has got that title, especially since she murdered the man she got it from, my father," he said.

The Earl spoke about his father's killing for the first time ahead of a More4 documentary looking at his attempt to rescue the Shaftesbury family name from bankruptcy and ruin.

The Aristocrats is a four-part series exploring modern day high society through historically prominent families.

It follows Nick Ashley-Cooper coming to terms with assuming the title of the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury in 2005, after his father's murder and his 28-year-old elder brother Anthony's sudden death from a heart attack weeks later.

His father, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, was murdered by his Tunisian wife's brother.

The Shaftesbury family has strong historic connections with Northern Ireland and owns Lough Neagh. It's understood Nick is considering transferring ownership of it to the Assembly.

Back in 2002 Jamila M'Barek, a former prostitute, became Nick's father's third wife.

Then in 2004 she paid her brother Mohammed to kill her husband before he could divorce and disinherit her.

Anthony Ashley-Cooper's decomposed remains were discovered in France in 2005, five months after he vanished. Two years later his widow and Mohammed M'Barek were found guilty of premeditated murder.

Her sentence was reduced from 25 years to 20, but despite her role as an accomplice in the murder, she retains the title Countess of Shaftesbury.

Nick said: "Technically, she is the Dowager Countess, because Dinah, my wife, is the Countess. But she should not even have that."

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The title of the Earl of Shaftesbury was created in 1672 for Anthony Ashley-Cooper, Chancellor of the Exchequer to Charles II and founder of the Whig party. The 8th Earl married Lady Harriet Chichester, whose family seat was Belfast Castle, in 1857. The Shaftesburys acquired Belfast Castle through this marriage. The 9th Earl of Shaftesbury was Lord Mayor of Belfast in 1907. He gave Belfast Castle and estate to the City of Belfast in 1934.

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