TO night walk in the moonlight, then a sudden and fatal shot. What exactly happened between the socialite couple of the son of a billionaire Tory donor and a senior police officer in the early hours of last Friday at the seaside resort of Mata Rocks has taken over the small Caribbean nation of Belize and has become in an international drama. Now it is an important test for the legal and criminal system of the country.
This week, a 32-year-old Canadian woman, Jasmine Hartin, was charged with the negligent murder of a local police superintendent, Henry Jemmott. The case has attracted attention because Hartin is a partner of Andrew Ashcroft, son of Michael Ashcroft, the Conservative party donor and the most influential resident of Belize. Lord Ashcroft is a former vice chairman of the Conservative party, a member of the House of Lords, and a billionaire.
Hartin is currently in the Belize Central Jail awaiting a bond hearing next week. According to police, he met Jemmott on Ambergris Caye, the northernmost point of Belize, known for its beaches, coral reefs and snorkeling. Hartin had previously been to a party with Andrew Ashcroft in the city of San Pedro. Then he went for a walk with Jemmott, who was off duty.
The couple sat together at the end of a pier. Jemmott allegedly showed him his Glock service pistol. When he returned it to him, he accidentally shot himself, he told police, shooting Jemmott in the back of the neck. The officer, a burly man, 1.82 meters (6 feet) tall, weighing more than 135 kg (300 pounds), rolled into the sea, dead. Hartin, who said she had been giving her a massage, was found distraught and covered in blood.
They took her to the San Pedro jail and then transferred her to the main jail on Tuesday. His defense attorney, Godfrey Smith, a former Belizean foreign minister, requested bail. Prosecutors have objected, suggesting that Hartin is a flight risk. During a hearing on Wednesday, the judge in the case, Judge Herbert Lord, expressed disapproval of the frenzied tabloid coverage. A new hearing is scheduled for June 9.
Friends and relatives have described Jemmott as a tough and ambitious officer, who earned a reputation for cleaning up the drug-riddled Southside neighborhood of Belize City. He was the father of six, an enthusiastic drummer and a likely future police commissioner, they said. “My brother loved life. He has a passion for his work. He also loved his family. My brother loved people ”, his sister Marie said 7 News, a local television station.
Belize Police Commissioner Chester Williams said: “Personally, I knew Mr. Jemmott very well. Sometimes we clash, but at the end of the day, we both have this department’s best interest at heart. Mr. Jemmott was one of those people who really challenged me. And that was his style: ambitious, assertive, but also a devoted family man. “
Williams has reportedly insisted that Hartin receive no special favors. She could face up to five years in jail if convicted. But you could also face a £ 7,000 fine, similar to the penalty imposed on drunk drivers. Discontent with the way the police have handled the investigation has came up on social media. Locals have noted Hartin’s wealth and connections, and that she is white and her alleged victim was black.
The question now is whether justice can be dispassionately served, given Lord Ashcroft’s status in the former British colony, which gained independence in 1981, much to the chagrin of neighboring Guatemala. Ashcroft is a joint citizen of the United Kingdom and Belize. He has not made any comments. Instead, this week he’s been promoting on Twitter. his latest book, Red Knight, an unauthorized biography of Labor leader Keir Starmer.
Ashcroft owns a bank in Belize. He played a key role in turning the country into an offshore financial center, or what critics say is a tax haven. As in the UK, Ashcroft has been involved in politics in Belize, home to 440,000 people, many of them poor. Ashcroft has previously served as the country’s ambassador to the UN. He has a colonial-style house in Belize City.
It is closely related to the politicians of the country. At times it has stood up to them and also financed them. In 2009, then-Prime Minister Dean Barrow said that Ashcroft’s prolific business interests had “subjugated an entire nation” following a dispute over the nationalization of the Belize telecommunications company, which Ashcroft used to own. There are no signs of wrongdoing.
Barrow stated: “Lord Michael Ashcroft is an extremely powerful man. Your net worth may well equal Belize’s total GDP. There is no one to cross. But this is our home, this is our country, here we are the teachers. And with all the weight of that sovereignty, now we must put an end to this lack of respect, this taking of opportunities, the slavery of the new age. “
More recently, Ashcroft has funded the Belize Police Department, which is cash-strapped. Last summer he donated equipment. In February he cut the ribbon at a new gym at Central Station, together with Home Affairs Minister Kareem Musa and Commissioner Williams, the Daily Mail reported. Ashcroft’s generosity extends to the prison where his son’s partner is being held. His drug rehab wing is named after him.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Hartin is the Director of Lifestyle and Experience at Alaia Belize Hotel Group, a company led by Andrew Ashcroft. Andrew, 43, has lived in Belize for two decades. He and Hartin are not married, said a spokesman, who declined to comment further. Hartin could face a second charge after a small quantity of drugs was allegedly found at the scene, it was reported.
Ahead of a criminal trial and more lurid headlines, the dead man’s friends have wondered how a night under the stars could have ended in horror and bloodshed. “They have stabbed our hearts,” said Jemmott’s sister Marie. told the local media this week. “We will pray for her as we pray for her soul.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism