Canadian socialite charged with manslaughter of Belize police chief

Married socialite Jasmine Hartin, 32, is charged with manslaughter for the fatal shooting of Belize cop ‘during a massage after drinking’ – but could avoid any jail time by paying a hefty FINE

  • Jasmine Hartin, the daughter-in-law of British billionaire Lord Michael Ashcroft, has been charged with manslaughter by negligence over the death of Belize Superintendent Henry Jemmott
  • On Monday night a court in San Pedro denied her bail application, her lawyer Godfrey Smith confirmed 
  • The Canadian could be sentenced to ‘life’, meaning 25 years in prison, or she could be let off with just a fine
  • Sources with knowledge of the island’s secretive justice system said the fine could be around $10,000 USD
  • Jemmott, 42, was found dead in the water off San Pedro island with a gunshot wound to his head early Friday
  • Prior to his death, he had been drinking with wealthy Hartin, 32, a Canadian socialite 
  • Hartin told detectives she was giving the officer a massage moments before the freak accident, according to local news reports
  • Hartin was being held at San Pedro police station jail, which a local described as ‘hell on earth’ 

Canadian socialite Jasmin Hartin has been charged with manslaughter by negligence in the shooting death of a prominent police officer in Belize, can reveal, and could escape with just a fine.

Jasmine Hartin, 32, who is married to the son of British billionaire Lord Michael Ashcroft, was taken into custody last Friday after Superintendent Henry Jemmott, 42, was shot behind the ear with his own revolver.

Police believe the pair had been drinking and fooling around with Jemmott’s service revolver when it accidentally fired, causing the 6ft officer to topple off a pier in the luxury coastal enclave of Ambergris Caye.

Hartin told detectives she was giving the officer a massage moments before the freak accident, according to local news reports. 

Hartin was found at the scene by a security guard ‘hysterical’ and covered in blood, but clammed up and summoned a lawyer once she was in police custody, sources said.

The blonde socialite has spent the past four days holed up in a tiny concrete cell at the stiflingly hot police and magistrates court complex in San Pedro, the tropical resort’s only town.

Hartin was arraigned behind a cloak of secrecy on Monday in San Pedro, despite authorities insisting the glamorous mother-of-two would not receive any preferential treatment.

Police abruptly ejected reporters and members of the public from the building before she was taken from the tiny, concrete holding cell to the court, one floor above, at around 3:30pm local time.

Officers cited COVID social distancing rules that ban assemblies of more than ten people, though more than double that amount were stood in a waiting room earlier in the day.

Hartin will spend another night in a squalid Belize jail cell after her attorney, Godfrey Smith, emerged from the courthouse late Monday saying his client had been denied bail.

‘The charge is manslaughter by negligence. Bail has been denied. We appeal to the Supreme Court as is normal,’ he said. 

Jasmine Hartin is pictured with her husband Andrew Ashcroft at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their new resort on May 7

Police Commissioner Chester Williams said on Sunday morning that Hartin had given a statement under caution and a file was passed on to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal.  

The punishment for manslaughter can be ‘life’ in prison – up to 25 years – in the Belizean criminal system.

However Hartin is facing a maximum of five years, sources told

Sources with knowledge of the island’s secretive justice system said the punishment could alternatively be just a fine of around $20,000 Belizean dollars, or $10,000 in US money.  

One of the officer’s sisters, Marie Jemmott Tzul, told on Sunday night that Hartin was about to be charged and would make her first court appearance within days.

‘I got a call, but they did not say what she was going to be charged with,’ said Marie, 55.

Hartin told investigators the Glock pistol went off accidentally as she handed it to Jemmott, according to local reports. 

The Belize Police Department Police could not be reached to discuss the report.

Police are trying to understand how Henry Jemmott ended up dead, shot with his own police service weapon; a single bullet hole piercing the skin behind his right ear

American Jasmine Hartin was drinking with Jemmott before he died. She was pictured handling a gun at a shooting range in an image local news outlets said was taken from her Facebook profile nine years ago

An officer who was among the first on the scene suggested that Jemmott fell on to Hartin after he was shot, and he fell into the water when she pushed him off. 

Marie, a retired social worker, told ‘I haven’t seen the news because I’m so overwhelmed and devastated by my brother’s death.

‘I can’t can speculate over whether they will bail her or she will stay in prison, because I don’t know the charge yet.

‘What I would say to Jasmine is, give closure to the family. Tell us what happened. We want to know for the benefit of our family. He was my only brother.

‘He had five children and a partner for 14 years. Every time I look at my nieces and my nephews I break down and cry. Please tell us what happened.’ 

Jemmott was said to have been taking a few days to relax at the resort after having relationship issues and taking leave from work for ‘personal matters’.

His family have denied any romantic connection between Jemmott and Hartin, and said the officer was good friends with the whole Ashcroft family. 

Jemmott’s family had previously rubbished suggestions that the officer took his own life, despite claims he was experiencing marital problems.

His family said they do not know why the ‘cautious’ officer would have ventured out from his room after 10pm, breaching the country’s COVID curfew.

His sister Cherry Jemmott, 48, an Assistant Superintendent with Belize Police, told ‘My brother would never ever kill himself. He had his plans. In September he was to be promoted to Senior Superintendent and he was to be transferred to another unit. My brother is a very top cop with a big dream. 

She added: ‘He had a gunshot behind his ear like an assassination. He is so skillful after 24 years [as an officer], he would never have left his guard down. He was a top cop. I don’t know how he let down his guard to be shot with his own gun.’ 

Cherry said a security guard heard a single shot.

Cherry said she believes her brother, whose nickname was King because he was his parents’ only son, and Hartin knew each other because she does business in San Pedro and he was the officer in charge of the area two to three years ago.  

Meanwhile, Henry Jemmott’s niece, Renisha Martinez, wrote on Facebook: ‘I know for a fact my uncle would never do a suicide. He was murdered and we need justice. That man loved his job so much that he wouldn’t even take days off!’

She added: ‘First and foremost my Uncle is a dedicated man when it comes to his job. He is a caring and supporting dad, uncle and friend. He loved being out and working hard. He believed that hard work came with a lot of discipline. 

‘My uncle was a great man in my eyes and anybody else who knows him would feel how I feel.’  

Hartin and her husband, Andrew Ashcroft, share two children together. They spend much of their time in Belize, where they own a luxury hotel named Alaia. It only opened for business earlier this month.

According to Belize Police Commissioner Chester Williams, Hartin left the hotel late Thursday evening and walked a short distance down a beach to a small wooden jetty.

She met up with Jemmott, who was reported to be an old friend. Commissioner Williams confirmed the two were alone, drinking alcohol, and breaking the island’s 10pm to 5am COVID curfew.

‘They were both fully dressed,’ he told reporters. ‘They were known to each other. They were drinking for a couple of hours before the incident occurred.’

He added that the incident appeared to be ‘rather personal and not an attack’ and the pair were friends who had been drinking at the time. 

Hartin was in custody in a holding cell at the San Pedro police station jail which one local described as ‘hell on earth’.

Henry Jemmott’s sister, Assistant Superintendent Cherry Jemmott, 48, are pictured together at a holiday party in 2019. She told that her brother would never have taken her own life

He added: ‘She is a lady who is used to luxury. Whenever you see her she is always perfectly dressed, her children are always perfect. She is a nice lady, very polite and beautiful. I can’t imagine her in there. I have been inside that jail. The cell floors are made of dirt and the whole place smells of urine.’

In the bars and coffee shops around downtown San Pedro, speculation about what had happened was rife.

‘I’ve heard lots of theories,’ one woman told Daily Mail. ‘That they were drinking and maybe she was playing around with his gun and it accidentally went off. Or maybe they were playing a game and she didn’t think it was loaded. I don’t think he killed himself because you wouldn’t shoot yourself behind your right ear.’

According to one source, a local security guard raced to the scene when he heard the gunshot and alerted police who arrived to find Hartin ‘deeply distressed and shaking’. 

The police commissioner confirmed Hartin had been found with blood on her hands, arms and clothing. Another unconfirmed report claimed she told the first officers on the scene the gunshot had come ‘from a passing boat’.

One source offered a potential explanation for Hartin being covered in blood. ‘After the gun went off, Jemmott fell on top of her and so she pushed him off and that’s how he ended up in the shallow water by the pier,’ he suggested.

‘His gun was found there on the pier. People have been speculating there was some sort of romantic relationship between them but I don’t believe that, the family doesn’t think that. I knew Henry [Jemmott], he was a big bear of a man, grossly overweight.

‘He’s a good guy and I know he was friends with several members of the Ashcroft family. He got to know them well when he was living here on the island. It’s a small island, we all know each other.’ 

Belize Police Commissioner Chester Williams said: ‘The first person who arrived on the scene after the incident occurred said that she was in an emotional state. When she was detained last night she was not co-operating.

‘She stated that she needed to have her attorney present in order for her to say what she needs to say, and it’s her right by virtue of the constitution, but that raises a red flag. The situation is such that it does require an explanation from her. In the absence of an explanation then she would have to be treated as the killer and we will proceed accordingly.

‘His body was recovered from the water. His weapon was recovered at the scene. The investigation is ongoing. It is too early to speculate but I can assure you that if any crime has been committed whoever did it will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.’ 

Late on Thursday evening, Hartin left her luxury hotel, Alaia (pictured) and walked a short distance down a beach to a small wooden jetty to meet Jemmott

Lord Ashcroft has business interests in Belize. Pictured: Lord Ashcroft and Lord Steinberg in the Robing Room of the House of Lords

Lord Ashcroft, 75, a former deputy chairman of the British Conservative Party and philanthropist, has invested heavily in Belize for decades and has dual Belizean and British citizenship.

Lord Ashcroft’s long-time lawyer, the nation’s former attorney general Godfrey Smith, was seen visiting the prison on Friday afternoon after flying in from mainland Belize. It is not known whether she will appoint her own criminal lawyer – and provide an explanation. 

The shooting has stunned islanders who say the Ashcroft family has been part of the fabric of Belize – formally British Honduras – for generations.

Lord Ashcroft was raised there as a child and returned in the early 1980s, took Belizean citizenship and built up a series of hugely successful businesses including banks, telecommunications firms and tourism ventures.

‘Lord Ashcroft spent most of COVID here in Belize,’ said a source. ‘He only left a short while ago.

‘The Ashcrofts are integral to Belize. Many people are grateful to Lord Ashcroft for all the millions he has invested in this country.

‘He has created thousands of jobs but, like anywhere, there is also some resentment and a lot of politics going on.

‘He is embedded in the culture and has made a lot of money from his businesses here and some people aren’t happy about that.’

The Ashcroft’s latest venture – in partnership with hotel giant Marriott – is the gleaming new hotel Alaia, which was completed during lockdown and opened just three weeks ago.

The Ashcrofts are also building a condominium building on nearby land. 

‘That hasn’t broken ground yet,’ said a source. ‘But Andrew remains committed to Belize. This is his home and it is where he is raising his kids.

‘He used to have a different accent but now he sounds like a local. He loves this island and he does everything to fit in. The new hotel has created 300 jobs for the island. We love him. This has all come as a terrible shock.’

Lord Ashcroft: The Tory donor who has faced questions over his tax payments

Born Michael Anthony Ashcroft in Chichester, West Sussex, he became one of the country’s wealthiest men after buying up a string of companies.

He also sat on the Conservative benches of the House of Lords until 2015, having been created a life peer in 2000.

But Lord Ashcroft, who holds dual British and Belizean nationality, came under fire in 2017 when he was named in the controversial Paradise Papers – a leak of secret documents laying bare the financial affairs of the global elite.

At one stage, he was forced to deny allegations he hid in the toilet to avoid questions about his offshore investments – claiming he just needed ‘a pee’.

The former deputy chairman of the party was filmed by a Panorama journalist and could be heard repeatedly saying ‘dear dear dear’ as he was followed around the Tory conference before heading to the toilet.

Lord Ashcroft, who has an estimated fortune of £850million, faced a torrent of online abuse over the exchange and responded by repeating his words ‘dear dear dear’.

When asked if he was hiding from the journalist he said: ‘No hiding..went in …had a pee..and walked out’. 

The documents revealed the billionaire continued to avoid paying tax despite Parliament’s efforts to make peers pay their full share.

Lord Ashcroft was domiciled in Belize for tax purposes when it was widely believed he had given up his non-dom status to pay tax, the explosive papers showed.

He refused to speak to the BBC’s Richard Bilton when quizzed at the Tory Party Conference about having tens of millions in the offshore Punta Gorda Trust.

He led Mr Bilton through the conference hall, at one point holding his hand, repeatedly muttering ‘dear, oh dear, oh dear’ under his breath. 

While most Britons have to pay tax on everything they earn, privileged non-doms are only taxed on the income they earn in the UK.

When questioned, Lord Ashcroft, who has donated millions to the Conservative party and is still hugely influential in British politics, refused to comment.

He denied any ‘impropriety or wrongdoing’ when asked questions about his non-dom status in 2010. 

When Lord Ashcroft entered the House of Lords in 2000, Parliament tried to force the controversial peer to pay the full amount of British tax.

He promised to become a permanent resident in the UK, which would have meant giving up his status as a UK resident whose full-time domicile is out of the country. 

William Hague, who was then leader of the Conservative Party at the time, told Parliament that Lord Ashcroft becoming a peer would ‘cost him [Lord Ashcroft] and benefit the Treasury tens of millions of pounds a year in tax’.

Yet Lord Ashcroft, who was ranked the 74th richest person in the UK by the Sunday Times Rich List 2015, managed to convince officials that he should be allowed to become a long term resident of the UK rather than becoming a permanent resident. 

This slight distinction meant that Lord Ashcroft was able to retain his non-dom status in Belize, where he once served as the nation’s ambassador to the United Nations. 

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