The partner of billionaire Tory peer Lord Ashcroft’s son is refusing to cooperate with police, officials say, after she was arrested over the fatal shooting of a senior police officer in Belize.
American Jasmine Hartin – who is in a relationship with businessman Andrew Ashcroft – was held after the lifeless body of police chief Henry Jemmott was found floating in the sea off the eastern coast of Central America.
Investigators say the pair are friends and had been drinking together before the body was discovered in the early hours of Friday morning.
Locals heard a single gunshot ring out into the night and Superintendent Jemmott, a married family man, was found with a fatal wound to his head, behind his right ear, with his gun nearby.
When officers arrived, an ’emotional’ Mrs Ashcroft was on the pier above the water with her arms and clothes stained with blood, Belize police commissioner Chester Williams said.
She was then arrested but is still not helping police with their enquiries into the tragedy, as it is understood she is waiting for legal representation.
Commissioner Williams told a press conference her refusal to speak ‘raises some red flags’ despite it being her right under the Belizean Constitution.
‘The situation is such that it does require an explanation from her,’ he added.
The Commissioner insisted he was keeping ‘an open mind’ as to whether the death was suicide, accident or murder, but Supt Jemmott’s sister has emphatically rejected suggestions that her brother might have taken his own life.
Ms Hartin, a former estate agent, is in a relationship with the leading Tory donor’s son, and the couple live in the Caribbean nation, where they launched a luxury hotel together.
Andrew, 43, is the youngest of Lord Ashcroft’s three children from his first marriage and is a citizen of Belize, where he lives and works with Jasmine in San Pedro, the main town on the island of Amergris Caye.
It lies off the coast of Belize and is a popular holiday destination.
According to sources, American Jasmine Hartin is in a relationship with Andrew Ashcroft, who is the son of billionaire businessman and leading Tory donor and former deputy chairman of the party Lord Ashcroft
Local media have named the dead officer as Superintendent, Henry Jemmott who was shot dead in the early hours of Friday morning
Jemmott’s body is seen being brought to shore on Friday morning after it was seen floating in the sea earlier that day
The death of the police chief, who had spent over 20 years in the force, shocked people in Belize, where he was a well-known figure
Lord Ashcroft has business interests in Belize. Pictured: Lord Ashcroft and Lord Steinberg in the Robing Room of the House of Lords
Jasmine Hartin is pictured with her partner Andrew Ashcroft at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their new resort on May 7
Lord Ashcroft: The Tory donor who has faced questions over his tax payments
Born Michael Anthony Ashcroft in Chichester, West Sussex, he became one of the country’s wealthiest men after buying up a string of companies.
He also sat on the Conservative benches of the House of Lords until 2015, having been created a life peer in 2000.
But Lord Ashcroft, who holds dual British and Belizean nationality, came under fire in 2017 when he was named in the controversial Paradise Papers – a leak of secret documents laying bare the financial affairs of the global elite.
At one stage, he was forced to deny allegations he hid in the toilet to avoid questions about his offshore investments – claiming he just needed ‘a pee’.
The former deputy chairman of the party was filmed by a Panorama journalist and could be heard repeatedly saying ‘dear dear dear’ as he was followed around the Tory conference before heading to the toilet.
Lord Ashcroft, who has an estimated fortune of £850million, faced a torrent of online abuse over the exchange and responded by repeating his words ‘dear dear dear’.
When asked if he was hiding from the journalist he said: ‘No hiding..went in …had a pee..and walked out’.
The documents revealed the billionaire continued to avoid paying tax despite Parliament’s efforts to make peers pay their full share.
Lord Ashcroft was domiciled in Belize for tax purposes when it was widely believed he had given up his non-dom status to pay tax, the explosive papers showed.
He refused to speak to the BBC‘s Richard Bilton when quizzed at the Tory Party Conference about having tens of millions in the offshore Punta Gorda Trust.
He led Mr Bilton through the conference hall, at one point holding his hand, repeatedly muttering ‘dear, oh dear, oh dear’ under his breath.
While most Britons have to pay tax on everything they earn, privileged non-doms are only taxed on the income they earn in the UK.
When questioned, Lord Ashcroft, who has donated millions to the Conservative party and is still hugely influential in British politics, refused to comment.
He denied any ‘impropriety or wrongdoing’ when asked questions about his non-dom status in 2010.
When Lord Ashcroft entered the House of Lords in 2000, Parliament tried to force the controversial peer to pay the full amount of British tax.
He promised to become a permanent resident in the UK, which would have meant giving up his status as a UK resident whose full-time domicile is out of the country.
William Hague, who was then leader of the Conservative Party at the time, told Parliament that Lord Ashcroft becoming a peer would ‘cost him [Lord Ashcroft] and benefit the Treasury tens of millions of pounds a year in tax’.
Yet Lord Ashcroft, who was ranked the 74th richest person in the UK by the Sunday Times Rich List 2015, managed to convince officials that he should be allowed to become a long term resident of the UK rather than becoming a permanent resident.
This slight distinction meant that Lord Ashcroft was able to retain his non-dom status in Belize, where he once served as the nation’s ambassador to the United Nations.
After Ms Hartin was visited by one of Belize’s most high-powered lawyers, Godfrey Smith, Supt Jemmott’s sister declared that her brother would ‘never’ commit suicide.
Asked about the possibility of suicide, Marie Jemmott Tzul told 7 News Belize: ‘I would say bull! My brother would never kill himself.
‘My brother had a passion for life, he looked forward for his children, his five children and his finance and me and the other family members.’
She said the family knew nothing of Mr Jemmott’s relationship with Ms Hartin, who according to police were friends.
‘They only know that he got shot, there was a female there and he was found in the water, that’s all the family knows so far,’ she said.
Asked whether she thought the single gunshot wound behind his right ear which killed her brother could have been accidental, she said: ‘Well, I cannot say that,
‘I will leave that to the investigators and I ask that God open their hearts and minds as they do this investigation, so that the truth may fall in place.
‘What happened, we don’t know, I don’t know. So we are depending on the police investigation to set the record straight for us. I believe he was killed.
Lord Michael Ashcroft, 75, once served as Belize’s ambassador to the United Nations and is the former deputy chairman of the UK’s Conservative Party.
Commissioner Williams said the investigation will not be compromised by high-powered political pressure, but said he had briefed the Prime Minister of the former British colony on the eastern coast of Central America on the case.
He said: ‘We have to keep an open mind in the investigation. But there is no suggestion to say there is any third actor.
‘Inspection of the body should tell us a lot in terms of proximity and trajectory which will assist in determining the distance from which the shot was fired as well as whether or not Mr Jemmott could have caused his own injury or it was caused by someone in his close proximity.’
Mr Jemmott’s service weapon was found nearby. The officer had requested ‘personal leave’ from the police before the incident.
Commissioner Williams added: ‘From what we have gathered so far Mr Jemmott and a female, one Jasmine, were socialising on a pier somewhere in San Pedro. This was after 12.30am which was [Covid] curfew time.
‘One single gunshot was heard. And upon investigating police found the female on a pier. And she had what appeared to be blood on her arms and her clothing.
‘A firearm was also seen. That has been retrieved. The firearm belonged to the police and was assigned to Mr Jemmott, so he had it on him at the time.
‘And inside the waters right near the pier police recovered the lifeless body of Mr Jemmott with one apparent gunshot wound behind the right ear.
‘He was taken to the San Pedro clinic where he was found dead on arrival. Currently we have Miss Jasmine Ashcroft in custody and she is being investigated in the shooting of Mr Jemmott.’
The police commissioner said Mrs Ashcroft ‘was somewhat in an emotional state’ when she was found on the pier and was later taken into custody.
Forensic tests were not carried out to swab her for gunshot residue, he said, and she had not initially co-operated with police. Lawyers were last night flying into Belize to represent her.
‘She was not co-operating,’ the police chief said. ‘She requested that she needed to have an attorney present in order for her to say what she wants to say, which is part of her rights.’
There was no surveillance footage from CCTV cameras available, Commissioner Williams told the media briefing.
He added: ‘They were alone on the pier and were fully clothed. I cannot say the nature of the relationship. Only they can say. We know they are friends.’
A curfew is in place between midnight and 5am as part of the island’s Covid restrictions but officers have interviewed people in the area in case they witnessed anything.
Lord Ashcroft did not respond to a request for comment.
Jemmott’s body is seen being retrieved from the sea on Friday morning. He died from a single wound to the head, fired from his own service weapon
The police chief’s body was found floating off the end of this pier in the early hours of Friday morning
Jemmott was a well-known figure in Belize, particularly in the San Pedro area which he commanded for several years. On Friday, as news of his death spread, shocked colleagues sent their condolences to his family
Jemmott was a long-serving member of the Belize police force, having joined the force in 2000
Jasmine Hartin’s partner Andrew Ashcroft, 43, has lived in Belize for over 20 years, he said. His father is Lord Ashcroft, a well-known British political donor and former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party
American Jasmine Hartin Ashcroft works as the Director of Lifestyle and Experience at the resort, which opened May 7
Godfrey Smith, the former Attorney General of Belize, is seen on Friday morning. He has flown in to the island to represent Hartin
Superintendent Jemmott was commander of precinct two in Belize City, the largest city in the Central American country
Superintendent Jemmott was commander of precinct two in Belize City, the largest city in the Central American country.
Lord Ashcroft has extensive business interests in Belize with his son Andrew recently responsible for overseeing the development of a luxury resort on Amergris Caye called Alaia Belize.
Made up of lavish beach front condos, it states on its website that Andrew is a citizen of Belize and has ties going back to the country for ‘generations,’ while Jasmine Hartin is described as his partner who is the project’s Director of Lifestyle and Experience.
It also stated that Andrew is a former director of the British Caribbean Bank and has been responsible for funding a number of high-profile real estate developments in Belize and the surrounding region.
Referring to Jasmine, it states: ‘Along with her [partner], Andrew Ashcroft, Jasmine has played an integral role in shaping the vision for Alaia Belize from the very beginning.
‘Her passion for Belize and her appreciation for the local nature and culture have been guiding forces as she has collaborated with the entire development team on every aspect of the experience, from the master plan and amenity curation to interiors and social programming.’
Tributes have been paid to Superintendent Jemmott, who was well known in Belize.
The country’s coast guard, which works closely with the country’s police force was amongst the first to express its sorrow.
Acting Commandant Commander Gregory Soberanis wrote to Belize’s police chief, Chester Williams: ‘His service to his Department and country will not be forgotten. Today we mourn his loss, but honour is duty to service.
‘On behalf of the Belize Coast Guard our deepest sympathies as we stand together with the Police Department in this time of bereavement.’