An international scandal is brewing in Belize where the American daughter-in-law of a British billionaire has been detained by authorities after a police official was fatally shot, the BBC reports.
Around 2 a.m. Friday, San Pedro Superintendent Henry Jemmott was found floating in shallow water off a pier with a bullet wound to his head. A police firearm was located nearby.
Also at the scene was Jasmine Hartin, the daughter-in-law of Lord Michael Ashcroft, a prominent British businessman who has extensive financial and political ties to Belize.
Jemmott, 42, and Hartin, 38, were reportedly drinking together on the pier prior to the shooting in the town of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, an island off the coast of Belize.
“From what we have been made to understand, they were drinking. From investigation, they were alone on the pier and yes, they were both fully clothed,” Belize Police Commissioner Chester Williams told reporters at a news conference, according to the BBC.
Hartin has so far refused to discuss what happened and has requested legal counsel.
First responders said that when they arrived to the scene, Hartin was covered in blood and was “deeply distressed and shaking,” according to the Daily Mail.
Williams told the newspaper that Hartin needs to explain what happened otherwise investigators must assume that she shot Jemmott.
“She stated that she needed to have her attorney present in order for her to say what she needs to say, and it’s her right by virtue of the constitution, but that raises a red flag,” Williams told the Daily Mail.
He added: “The situation is such that it does require an explanation from her. In the absence of an explanation then she would have to be treated as the killer and we will proceed accordingly.”
Jemmott and Hartin were reportedly old friends and were at the pier after hours socializing, which was against COVID-19 restrictions.
Jemmott’s family has said they believe he was killed. Marie Jemmott Tzul, the superintendent’s sister, told the Daily Mail that she spoke to him the night he died.
“He was in his room when he got a call. He wouldn’t have gone out unless it was for a friend or someone he knew well,” she told the newspaper. “I believe he was killed. The investigation can tell me otherwise, but I believe he was killed.”
Officially, investigators have not determined whether the death was intentional, accidental or by suicide.
Jemmott was the father of five children.
One source told the Daily Mail that Hartin may have been soaked in blood because it is possible that Jemmott fell on her following the shooting.
Hartin is from the United States but lives in Belize with her husband, Andrew Ashcroft, the son of Lord Michael Ashcroft, who is Belize’s former ambassador to the United Nations.
Michael Ashcroft’s lawyer, Belize’s former attorney general, is said to have made a jail visit to see Hartin on Saturday.
Locals have described the jail as “hell on earth,” according to the Daily Mail. One person told the newspaper: “She is a nice lady, very polite and beautiful. I can’t imagine her in there. I have been inside that jail. The cell floors are made of dirt and the whole place smells of urine.”
Michael Ashcroft and his family are generally well-liked in Belize. He was raised in the country and helped develop major industries.
Since news of the incident broke on Friday, speculation has been swirling about what happened.
“I’ve heard lots of theories,” one woman told the Daily Mail. “That they were drinking and maybe she was playing around with his gun and it accidentally went off. Or maybe they were playing a game and she didn’t think it was loaded.”
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