Jasmine Hartin, the daughter-in-law of British billionaire and political power broker Lord Michael Ashcroft, told police that she accidentally shot a top cop in Belize while practicing how to reload his service weapon during a boozing session after curfew on a deserted dock.
Portions of Hartin’s statement to investigators were read aloud at a hearing before she was released from prison after posting what amounts to pocket change for her family.
The excerpts of her statement were the first official accounting of what happened the night of May 28 in San Pedro that left Superintendent Henry Jemmott dead in the water and Hartin stained with his blood.
Belize’s Channel 5 reported that the mother of 4-year-old twins and the engaged police official were socializing and drinking when, she claimed, “he asked me to hand him the magazine so he can reload it. I tried to take out the magazine, which was stuck and the firearm discharged.”
Jemmott was shot behind the ear and died immediately.
Hartin, a Canadian national, had been in police custody since her arrest, with prosecutors calling her a flight risk. But after Wednesday’s hearing, a judge decided to grant her bail in the amount of $30,000 and allow her to return home.
Her attorney, Godfrey Smith, told reporters that the judge didn’t buy the government’s argument she might abscond. “It made little sense to argue flight risk when she is under an international media microscope,” he said, referring to the global attention the case has gotten.
There are some conditions for her release: She has to check in with police every day and surrender her passport. But the ruling is sure to be controversial in Belize, where suspicions that Hartin’s wealth and family connections are getting her special treatment run high.
Hartin’s release was not entirely unexpected as the charge she faces, manslaughter by negligence, rarely carries serious jail time.
Hartin is the wife of Andrew Ashcroft and was the director of lifestyle and experience at the luxury resort he developed and owns. Andrew is the youngest son of Lord Ashcroft, who has extensive business interests in Belize and even bankrolled the police force’s gym. He’s also been a member of the British House of Lords, a Conservative Party official, and a major political donor.
Hartin retained the nation’s former attorney general as her defense lawyer and was charged with manslaughter as Jemmott’s family angrily demanded a murder charge. But in an unusual move, she was not granted bail immediately and was shipped from San Pedro to Belize City to a notorious lockup while awaiting a ruling from a magistrate on her release.