A POKER champion has been sentenced to 20 years in jail for the murder of his wife in America 16 years ago.

Marcus Bebb-Jones, of Kidderminster, was jailed in Colorado for murdering his wife Sabrina in 1997, which he initially denied, before pleading guilty earlier this year.

The court was told how Bebb-Jones dumped his wife’s body in a Colorado national park.

Yesterday, he was sentenced to 20 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections, the Colorado Judicial Department said.

A successful poker player, Bebb-Jones and his wife owned and ran the Melrose Hotel in the Grand Junction ski resort, Colorado.

In 1997, Mrs Bebb-Jones disappeared with Bebb-Jones claiming that she had left after an argument when he slapped her.

He returned to Kidderminster and lived in the town for about nine years before he was finally arrested.

In 2004, seven years after she disappeared, Mrs Bebb-Jones’ skull was found in a national park near Douglas Pass in north west Colorado.

The professional gambler was then arrested in 2009 after a raid at his home in Kidderminster amid accusations that he went on to spend thousands of dollars on his wife’s credit cards after she had disappeared.

The 49-year-old, whose family still lives in Kidderminster, lost his appeal against extradition to the US in 2011 and was due to stand trial, but pleaded guilty at a hearing in the Ninth Judicial District Court, Glenwood Springs, Colorado, in February.

He denied a charge of first-degree murder but – after agreeing a plea bargain with American prosecutors – admitted killing his 31-year-old wife in the heat of passion in return for a prison sentence of no more than 20 years.

During the case, the prosecution said Bebb-Jones had killed his wife and profited by about $130,000 – £83,600 – before deliberately botching a suicide bid in the hope of taking suspicion away from him.

District Attorney Sherry Caloia said Bebb-Jones had made the plea bargain, admitting murder in the second degree.