Belize prosecutors said Wednesday they want to keep a British billionaire’s daughter-in-law locked up on manslaughter charges because they fear she is a “flight risk.”
An appeals court judge has not yet decided whether Jasmine Hartin can be released on bail, but he ordered her held at least until Monday, and possibly until June 11, while both sides submit their arguments.
Hartin—whose husband is the son of Britain’s Lord Michael Ashcroft—is charged with killing a senior police official, Superintendent Henry Jemmott, with his own service pistol.
Authorities say the two were socializing after curfew on a deserted pier last week when a shot rang out. A security guard arrived to find the mother of two covered in blood and Jemmott dead in the water near the dock.
After two days in detention, Hartin made a statement in which she reportedly claimed that while she was giving Jemmott a massage, she handed him his Glock 9mm and it went off, dislodging a bullet behind his ear.
Prosecutors charged her with manslaughter by negligence, much to the dismay of Jemmott’s family, who were hoping for a higher charge and who have suggested that Hartin’s family ties afforded her special treatment.
“I think they should have took that to court as murder,” Jemmott’s sister, Marie Tzul, told Channel 7 news.
A local court denied Hartin’s request for bail, and she appealed to the nation’s Supreme Court. In a one-sentence response, prosecutors objected “in relation to her flight risk status,” said Shanice Lovell, Crown counsel.
The judge ordered Lovell to submit a more robust brief by Friday and gave Hartin’s legal team until Monday to respond, with a promise of a decision by June 11.
Hartin’s lawyer, Godfrey Smith, who once served as attorney general of Belize, bristled at reporters outside court, noting the judge had “expressed disapproval of the kind of media publicity he has seen attending this matter.”
“Obviously I have no intention of contributing to that,” Smith added.
His client was not in court for the hearing. Instead, she watched by video from Belize Central Prison, which the U.S. State Department has cited for its harsh and unsanitary conditions.
Hartin is a Canadian citizen who lives in Belize with her husband, Andrew Ashcroft, and their two children. Until her arrest, she was the lifestyle director for Alaia Belize, the luxury resort her husband developed.
Her father-in-law has extensive business interests in Belize and holds dual citizenship. Worth an estimated $2 billion, he was a major donor to the U.K.’s Conservative Party in the 1980s and 1990s and once served as deputy chairman of the party.