Socialite and daughter-in-law of British billionaire Lord Michael Ashcroft, Jasmin Hartin, was charged with manslaughter by negligence in the shooting death of a prominent police officer in Belize on Monday. Police now believe that Hartin was playing a drinking game with Superintendent Henry Jemmott, when the officer's pistol accidentally fired, resulting in his death by falling of a pier.
Hartin, 32, was taken into custody last Friday after Jemmott, 42, was shot behind the ear with his own revolver. However, she was denied bail at her arraignment Monday night, according to the Daily Mail. That said, the outlet reports that Hartin could still escape jail by just paying a fine.
Game of Death
Hartin, an American married to the son of businessman Lord Michael Ashcroft, had been drinking with Jemmott for a couple of hours before his body was found in the waters off San Pedro Island with a single gunshot wound behind his right ear on Friday. Following that, Hartin was detained on Friday for questioning.
Investigations revealed that Hartin was fooling around with the service revolver of Jemmott, when it accidentally fired causing the 6ft officer to topple off a pier in the luxury coastal enclave of Ambergris Caye.
Hartin reportedly told detectives that she was giving the officer a massage when he asked her to hand over his service Glock pistol, and the gun accidentally went off, according to local reports. Hartin, a mom of two, was reportedly covered in blood and "deeply distressed and shaking" when first responders arrived.
Hartin was visibly nervous and was "deeply distressed and shaking" said a security guard who overheard a shot fired. She was immediately taken into custody, following which she called her lawyer. Jemmott's service weapon was retrieved from the pier, police said.
Although authorities said that they would not give any preferential treatment to the glamorous socialite, Hartin was arraigned behind a cloak of secrecy on Monday in San Pedro. 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.
Police said that it was done keeping in mind the COVID social distancing rules and protocol that ban assemblies of more than 10 people. However, more than double that number waited outside the room earlier in the day.
That said, Hartin will now have to spend at least another night in custody after her attorney, Godfrey Smith, said that 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.
Jemmott's sister, Marie Jemmott Tzul, 55, said she that received word on Sunday night that charges will be filed against Hartin in his death, according to the Daily Mail. "I got a call. I was informed that she will be charged [Monday], but they did not say what she was going to be charged with," Tzul told the outlet.
In the Belizean criminal system, the punishment for manslaughter can be 'life' in prison, which is up to 25 years. However, Hartin is facing a maximum of five years, according to sources who spoke to the news outlet.
Sources with knowledge of the island's secretive justice system also said the punishment could alternatively be just a fine of around $20,000 Belizean dollars, or $10,000 in US money.
Hartin told investigators the Glock pistol went off accidentally as she handed it to Jemmott, according to local reports. Belize Police Commissioner Chester Williams said, "We have to look at the investigation with an open mind, but so far, we have not had any indication to suggest that there was any third actor."
Jemmott reportedly had taken a few days to relax at the resort after having relationship issues and taking leave from work for 'personal matters'. His family has denied any romantic connection between Jemmott and Hartin, and said the officer was good friends with the whole Ashcroft family. The officer's family had also previously refuted claims that the officer took his own life, despite reports that he was experiencing marital problems.