10th Earl of Shaftesbury (1961-2004)
Born 1938 Died 2004

Born on the 22nd May 1938 Anthony Ashley-Cooper was the son of another Anthony Ashley-Cooper and Françoise Soulier. His father was the only son and heir of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 9th Earl of Shaftesbury but died on the 8th March 1947 at the age of forty-six, and so with the death of his grandfather on the 25th March 1961 our Anthony became the 10th Earl of Shaftesbury and inherited the family seat of Wimborne St Giles in Dorset together with some 9,000 acres and a substantial amount of money.

The story of the 10th Earl's life is the tale of the women that he loved. Although his mother was French, Anthony was educated in England at Eton and the University of Oxford but was apparently unimpressed by the standards of English female company whom he dismissively referred to as "round-shouldered, unsophisticated garglers of pink champagne". He therefore looked elsewhere for a partner in life.

In 1966 at the age of twenty-eight he married a forty-year-old American divorcee, by the name of Bianca Maria de Paolis (or Bianca Le Vien). They were divorced in 1976 because of his adultery and later that same year he married another divorcee named Christina Eva Montan, (or Christina Kasella) the daughter of a Swedish ambassador. This particular partnership seems to have fared somewhat better and indeed produced two children, but the death of his mother in 1999 seems to have had a profund effect on the Earl who decided to divorce Christina and relocate to France.

Anthony had an apartment in Versailles (reportedly crammed full of £3m worth of antique art and furniture) but spent much of his time on the Cote d'Azur where despite being now in his early sixties, he threw himself into an energetic social life fuelled by alcohol and the modern wonders of Viagra but more importantly by his substantial inherited wealth which served as a powerful magnet to certain sections of French society. A friend was quoted as describing him as becoming a "philanthropist who specialised in rescuing lap dancers" whilst his French lawyer, one Thierry Bensaude, more diplomatically referred to him as "a philosophical adventurer in society".

In 2002 he was making plans to marry a French lingerie model by the name of Nathalie Lions, but was apparently put off the idea by adverse press reports that highlighted the less salubrious elements of Mme Lion's modelling career. As a result Anthony looked elsewhere and on the 5th November 2002 married a Djamila or Jamila Ben M'Barek a Dutch-Tunisian former nightclub hostess whom he had met in Paris. He established Jamila in an expensive flat in Cannes but apparently the marriage did not in any way interfere with his hectic social life which continued unabated. Perhaps inevitably by April 2004 the couple were separated with Anthony taking up a new girlfriend in the shape of the thirty-three year-old mother of two, Nadia Orch, variously described as a "club hostess from Cannes" and a "Moroccan prostitute". She paid no regard to their difference in age describing him as "an attentive, generous man".

The Mystery of the Vanished Earl

On the 6th November 2004 the Earl checked out of the Noga Hilton hotel in Cannes and then simply vanished. It was not apparently unusual for the 10th Earl to disappear for a few days from time to time, so no one was particularly concerned to begin with, but on the 15th November the Earl's French lawyer Thierry Bensaude reported him missing, after being contacted by Mme Orch. On the 18th of November the French police publicly appealed for information as to the Earl's whereabouts and on the 22nd November opened a formal criminal inquiry.

Initially the fears were that he had been kidnapped by Russian or North African gangsters who were plotting to steal his fortune. Thierry Bensaude said that the "The earl is extremely generous to his friends and may have been taken advantage of", whilst his wife claimed that she had warned the Earl about the company he was keeping. The theory was that some of his more disreputable acquaintances had decided to seize Anthony and were now engaged in some scheme to bamboozle the Earl into signing away part of his inherited wealth.

However by December the British police, who had been contacted by Anthony's sister Lady Frances Ashley-Cooper, said that they were treating the matter as murder. The French police appeared to concur in this opinion as there were no signs of any attempts at fraud. But whether dead or alive there were still no clues as to the whereabouts of the 10th Earl of Shaftesbury.

Then in February 2005 Jamila Ben M'Barek was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where apparently racked by guilt she began confessing to her involvement in her husband's death. When interviewed by police she claimed that the Earl had been beaten to death by her brother during a row at her flat in Cannes. (She was in receipt of a £4,000 a month allowance from her husband, but apparently Mr Ashley-Cooper wanted to end both this arrangement and the marriage so that he could marry his new girlfriend. )

According to Jamila her brother subsequently placed the body in the boot of his BMW and dumped it somewhere, but didn't tell her where. She was arrested on the 25th February and on the 26th her brother Mohammed M'Barek was arrested at his home in Munich by German police and later extradited to France. Mr M'Barek denied his involvement and claimed no knowledge of the location of the Earl's body.

Eventually a month or so later the mystery of the whereabouts of the 10th Earl of Shaftesbury was finally solved. By examining the missing Earl's mobile phone records, the police where able to identify the telephone mast that received the last-known signal from his mobile phone. This led the police to a valley in Theoule-sur-Mer on the outskirts of Cannes. After a two day search, on the 7th April they found hidden in the undergrowth next to the riverbed, a badly decomposed body that had been half-eaten by animals. A French police spokesman announced that "As far as we are concerned, there is absolutely no doubt it is him."

Jamila Ben M'Barek has since retracted her confession, claiming that she was mentally unfit at the time that it was made. Her brother has continued to deny any involvement but has otherwise said nothing on the matter. They are both expected to face trial in due course.


Sourced from A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at www.thepeerage.com and sundry news reports at www.telegraph.co.uk, news.bbc.co.uk and www.newcriminologist.co.uk.

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