Ashcroft daughter-in-law given bail in Belize over officer’s shooting

The daughter-in-law of the Conservative party donor Michael Ashcroft has been released on bail in Belize where she is accused of accidentally shooting dead a senior police officer.

Jasmine Hartin was freed on Wednesday after spending eight days behind bars in Belize’s central prison. She had to surrender her passport and personal documents and cannot leave the country without permission from the supreme court.

Bail was set at 30,000 Belize dollars (£10,500). Hartin, 32, has to report daily to the police station in San Ignacio town and adhere to a night-time curfew. The prosecution opposed her release and said her wealth and connections meant she was a flight risk.

The Canadian is the partner of Andrew Ashcroft, who has lived in Belize for two decades. His father, Lord Ashcroft, is a former Tory party deputy chairman, a one-time member of the House of Lords and a billionaire with UK and Belize citizenship.

Officials have charged Hartin with causing manslaughter by negligence. According to detectives, she attended a party last month in Ambergris Caye and afterwards went for a walk with Henry Jemmott, a local police superintendent. In the early hours of 28 May the two sat together on a pier.

Jemmott allegedly showed her his Glock service pistol. When she passed it back to him it accidentally went off, she told police, shooting Jemmott in the back of the head. The officer – a large man, 1.82 metri (6ft) tall, weighing more than 135kg (300lb) – rolled into the sea, dead.

Hartin said she been giving Jemmott a massage. She was found distraught and covered in blood. At Wednesday’s bail hearing her defence lawyer Godfrey Smith pointed out that she had not tried to flee the scene nor dispose of the weapon.

In written submissions her legal team said Hartin was the mother of four-year-old twins who are Belizean. They argued she had strong ties to Belize and it was therefore not realistic to believe she would flee the country.

Smith said after the hearing: “It made little sense to argue flight risk if she’s under an international media microscope, for an offence for which the likely sentence may be a fine or a short term of imprisonment. It makes no sense to flee in such circumstances.”

Prosecutors told the judge that Hartin had been under the influence of alcohol when she handled Jemmott’s service weapon and did not own a gun licence. They noted that her children – Lord Ashcroft’s grandchildren – had Canadian as well as Belize passports.

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