Socialite Jasmine Hartin is released on bail after a court heard she accidentally shot and killed a top Belizean cop while practicing reloading his service weapon during an overnight drinking session.
Hartin, whose partner, Andrew Ashcroft, is the son of influential British billionaire Lord Michael Ashcroft, was arrested early in the morning of May 28 after Chief Inspector Henry Jemmott was found dead next to a pier on the luxury resort island of San Pedro.
The mother of two faces charges of negligent homicide, the least serious charge she could have faced and one that is likely to result in a fine or up to nine months in prison.
At a hearing today to determine whether the mother of two should be released, Belizean prosecutor Shanice Lovell said Hartin had told police she drank and shot shots before Jemmott, 42, allowed her to wield his gun.
‘After a while he said, ‘Let’s go back inside and he asked me to return the magazine. I struggled with it, tried to get the magazine back in, and it came out,” Hartin told investigators in an excerpt from her affidavit read before the country’s Supreme Court.
Jasmine Hartin is released on bail after a court heard she accidentally shot and killed a top Belizean cop while practicing reloading his service weapon during an overnight drinking session
Hartin was arrested for ‘accidentally’ shooting Police Commissioner Henry Jemmott with his own service weapon
Hartin, a 32-year-old Canadian citizen, took part in the hearing via zoom from a cell block in Belize’s central prison, where she has been incarcerated for the past eight days.
However, she did not speak and the video screen was tilted so that her face could not be seen by Jemmott’s grieving sister Marie Tzul Jemmott and cousin Mark Tzul, who were sitting in the public gallery.
‘The applicant has used a dangerous weapon under the influence of alcohol. Her subsequent use of that weapon therefore resulted in a loss of life,” Lovell told Judge Herbert Lloyd.
Court heard Hartin accidentally killed Jemmott while she practiced reloading his service weapon during an overnight drinking session
She argued that the seriousness of the charges was “not diminished” by suggestions. Jemmott, a father of five and a 24-year-old police veteran, was negligent in allowing an unlicensed person to handle his weapon.
‘The petitioner is a person of resources and enormous resources. As such, it’s likely she would leave the jurisdiction without so much as looking back,” Lovell added.
Hartin’s attorney, Godfrey Smith, questioned whether it was legal for Jemmott to possess a firearm while off duty and intoxicated.
He also told the court that “the deceased had authorized the petitioner to handle his firearm the previous week.”
Smith said Belizean law requires Hartin to be released on bail unless there is an unacceptable risk of her absconding.
“It wouldn’t make sense” for her to flee, given her likely punishment could be a fine, he told Justice Lloyd.
“On the morning of the incident, Jemmott allowed Jasmine to wield his service firearm and asked her to hand it to him. Not to question the character of the deceased, but the evidence makes it clear that this was probably an accident and so what’s there for her to run from?’ he said.
Smith said Hartin has a home, a family and substantial ties to Belize, as well as investments, including the shiny new Alaia hotel resort in San Pedro that she runs with her husband.
“It makes no sense for this applicant to become a fugitive for life, damaging her investments and the brand, especially given the investigation she is undergoing, to be constantly pursued by international media,” he said at the hearing.
Her character has not been disputed. She has possessions, she has family ties, her behavior is good or not, there is no evidence to the contrary. She clearly has economic ties to the country.’
‘After a while he said, ‘Let’s go back inside and he asked me to return the magazine. I struggled with it, tried to get the magazine back in, and it came out,” Hartin told investigators in an excerpt from her affidavit read to the country’s Supreme Court.
Hartin’s attorney questioned whether it was legal for Jemmott to possess a firearm while off duty and intoxicated. He also told the court that ‘the deceased had given the petitioner permission to handle his firearm the previous week’
Smith suggested the court could impose an “unprecedented” travel ban on Hartin’s four-year-old twins to ensure she stays in Belize.
“What would the father have to say about fugitive children who join a fugitive mother?” he added.
After a brief suspension, Judge Lloyd agreed to set bail at 30,000 Belize dollars ($15,000), twice the normal amount.
Once her lawyers make the necessary arrangements, the so-called “Queen of the Alaia” will be free to leave the infamous Belize Central Prison, which was once featured in the Netflix documentary “Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons.”
Hartin will have to report to a police station on a daily basis, observe a curfew, surrender her ID and passport, and need court permission to travel.
‘There were very long discussions. But in the end, the judge held that there was no unacceptable flight risk once the right conditions could be created,” Smith, the former attorney general of Belize, said outside the court.
She has spent her brief stint there behind bars in a women-only unit, where she is isolated from other inmates due to a two-week Covid quarantine requirement.
Prison authorities built a separate facility for women in 2002 after a spate of rapes and assaults.
Hartin’s unit is manned by female guards and men, including upper male management, require special permission to enter.
Last week, Hartin was one of only two whites among the 1,041 prison populations.
The mind-boggling case started with a single gunshot in the early hours of May 28 after Hartin and Jemmott socialized alone on Mata Rocks pier in defiance of San Pedro’s midnight Covid curfew.
The blond socialite spent days in a small concrete cell in the stifling hot police and magistrate complex in San Pedro, the tropical resort’s only town. She was photographed behind bars by local media on Monday night
Police arrived and found the petite blonde up and down, covered in blood, and the dead officer floating face 30 feet above the shore. He had been shot once, behind the right ear.
Jemmott’s Glock 17 was found on the pier with an empty shell in the room.
Scattered nearby were loose 9mm rounds and a magazine, according to an indictment seen by DailyMail.com.
Hartin is said to have told a fellow inmate at San Pedro Prison that the shot was fired from a passing boat.
But when she spoke to investigators in Smith’s presence, she said Jemmott put it on the floor because she gave him a shoulder massage. When she picked it up, it went off.
The pretty hotelier was also caught with a small amount of cocaine in her bag, but has not been charged for it so far.
DailyMail.com revealed this week that Jemmott had bragged to a friend that he was dating the night of his death, but wouldn’t tell him who it was.
He said he would take his secret “into the grave” when the curious friend asked for details of the mystery woman.
Lord Ashcroft, 75, is a former deputy chairman and a major funder of the UK’s ruling Conservative Party.
He also holds Belizean citizenship, has invested heavily in the country and has represented it at the United Nations.