Senior Cop Killed, Family Says Homicide; Ashcroft's Daughter In Law Detained
He was one of the best known cops in Belize, but tonight 42-year-old Superintendent of Police Henry Jemmott is dead. He was fatally shot with his own gun last night on a San Pedro pier; and the news at this hour is that - according to the family - a post mortem has confirmed the headshot was he result of a homicide - not an accident, not a suicide.
The only suspect remains in custody at his hour at the San Pedro police station: she is Jasmine Hartin, the common law wife of Andrew Ashcroft and the daughter-in-law of lord Micheal Ashcroft.
Reports tonight are that Hartin was found on that pier splattered in the officer's blood and that she suggested to first responders that the bullett might have come from a passing boat.
Indeed, it's a mystery for which the intrigue is escalating tonight.
Police are just at the start of their investigation with details of this shocking incident still emerging. I flew to San Pedro this morning to find out more.
I'm standing in front of the Mata Rocks hotel pier, just south of downtown San Pedro and adjacent to the newly opened Alaia resort. It was here this morning just after 1:00, during curfew hours, that superintendent Henry Jemmott was fatally shot, reportedly with his own weapon. A woman who has one of the most prominent names on the island is at the police station where she is being questioned about this shooting death.
And while we got no glimpse of her this morning we did spot her attorney Godfrey Smith, he hailed a taxi to the station door to avoid our cameras.
And by mid-day the commissioner of police that the prominent socialite in question and Smith's client was none other than Mrs. Jasmine Hartin Ashcroft. The daughter in-law of the Lord Michael Ashcroft, the billionaire businessman whose dealings have largely shaped Belize's post independence history.
The question now is how we got here, a prominent, well known and well loved police officer, father of five, and man in a committed relationship socializing after curfew hours with a woman who also had a partner, Andrew Ashcroft with whom she has two children.
And then that officer winding up dead under circumstances both mysterious and violent.
We know that Jemmott had asked for time off to address some personal issues and since dead men tell no tales it will now be difficult to ascertain how deep those issues went and whether they had anything at all to do with Jasmin Hartin
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police "Currently we have Ms. Jasmine Ashcroft in custody and she is being investigated in respect to the shooting death of Mr. Jemmott. It seems rather personal and not an attack. From what we know is that they are friends. 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. We have to look at the investigation with an open mind, but so far we have not had any indication to suggest that there was any third actor. From what I gathered, from a statement I read, the first person who arrived on the scene after the incident occurred have said that she was somewhat in a emotional state walking herself on the pier. We believe that she is to some extent affected by it. When she was detained last night she was not cooperating. She have requested that she needed to have her attorney present in order for her to say what she needs to say and it a part of her rights by virtue of the constitution, but again, that raises some red flag. The situation is such that it do requires 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. If we get an explanation from her we might then be forced to send the matter to the DPP for her decision on it, so we will see how we go from there."
But ahead of all that, the noble cop will have to be buried and this morning, it was his older sister Marie who took up the unfortunate task of being his body back to the mainland.
Marie Jemmott Tzul, Sister of the deceased "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."
Jules Vasquez: "Did you know anything of his relationship with Jasmine Hartin?"
Marie Jemmott Tzul, Sister of the deceased "No, no relationship at all. I did not know about that person, but I know if the family would call him out, definitely he would come out for issues or something like that, so, I don't know what happened?"
Jules Vasquez: "One of the things they must look at was that it may have been a self-inflicted injury, right? That's one of the things investigators say they must look at. It was his weapon, he may have shot himself in the head. When you hear that, what is your reaction?"
Marie Jemmott Tzul, Sister of the deceased "I would say bull my brother would never kill himself. My brother had a passion for life, he look forward for his children, his 5 children and his finance and me and the other family members."
Jules Vasquez: "Do you think he may have been accidentally shot?"
Marie Jemmott Tzul, Sister of the deceased "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."
Jules Vasquez: "You don't believe it was accidental, you don't believe it was self-inflicted."
Marie Jemmott Tzul, Sister of the deceased "I believe he was killed. The investigation can tell me otherwise, but I believe he was killed. He was already in his room when we spoke. Why was he out there, why was he - I don't know."
And while the family may believe that Jemmott was killed many are already voicing the opinion that , given the circumstances and the prominent family at the center of things, nothing will come of this investigation:
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police "I can emphatically state that I have not received any call or calls from anybody above me, directing that we deal with the matter in one way or the other. As the commissioner it is my duty to brief the prime minister and to brief my minister. I briefed both of them this morning on the matter and both of them said that we must investigate the matter and the chips may fall where they may. While I don't need the political director to tell me how to do my job, I am comforted to know that both the prime minister and our minister support the fact that we must investigate the death of our fallen brother and if anyone is responsible that that person be dealt with to the strictest extent of the law to ensure that justice is served at the end."
Still, Jemmott's actual family, as well as his police department family, can only hope that the cop, who today was honored, with a flag at half-mast will get what he managed to give to so many families during his career on the force: a passionate commitment to justice:
Marie Jemmott Tzul, Sister of the deceased "A loving brother, son, and father. He had passion for whatever he do. He is a true friend. No matter what he was going through on his job, with his family or whatever, he had that ability to still have a humor and smile."
Notably, the Ashcroft Alliance has made it known that Andrew Ashcroft and Jasmine are not married. Her name is Jasmine Hartin. That is indeed the case, but the Marriott website says, "along with her husband Andrew Ashcroft Jasmin has played an integral role in shaping the vision for Alaia Belize from the very beginning." She is the mother of his two children.
She remains in custody tonight and will probably be locked up for the weekend. She is still not volunteering any information to the police. Reliable reports say she is suggesting that the shot which hit Jemmoth behind the ear may have been fired from a passing boat.
Jemmott Had Called It A Night
His family does not buy that - and his sister says she believes that after he had called it a night - he was lured to the pier. Here's what she told us about her call with him at 10:00 last night:
Marie Jemmott Tzul, Sister of the deceased "Even last night, the last time I spoke to him was 10pm and I told him to don't go out and he said no I am not going anywhere because I am tired, I just from fishing with Mr. Pani and so I am going to sleep. So when I got the news, I thought it was in the hotel."
Jules Vasquez "Do you know where he was staying and was he socializing last night?"
Marie Jemmott Tzul "When he spoke to me, he was in his hotel room."
Jules Vasquez "Which hotel?"
Marie Jemmott Tzul "Really I do not remember the hotel at this point and I don't want to say anything that is untrue."
Jules Vasquez "I know he went fishing yesterday, but what else has been doing later that evening?"
Marie Jemmott Tzul "He was socializing I think with Mr. Pani and some other friend. I think he mentioned a name Pacheco or Patch or something like that, so they were drinking and having a good time. My brother loved life, he loved life. He had passion for his work. He did his work with integrity and that's the way he loved his family as well. My brother loved people, he would have a barbeque at home and sending the pictures or posting them up and invite friends and stuff like that - that's my brother."
The post mortem his sister shared with us this evening says Jemmoth died of a massive brain haemorrhage due to gunshot wounds to the head." She says the doctor concluded it was homicide. We await word from police.
A Policeman With Passion - They Called Him "King"
But what we have heard the Commissioner say, is that he is determined to get justice for the outstanding, career officer. But, Superintendent Jemmott was no pushover, even the COMPOL freely admits that many times Jemmott challenged him - and that's the passion his sister spoke about. He said he is saddened greatly at the loss of the man who his friends called "King":
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police "It is extremely sad for all of us. Personally, I knew Mr. Jemmott, I know him well. There are times that we do not see eye to eye on certain issues, we clashed at times, but at the end of the day we both have the best interest of this department at heart. As a leader I am not the type who, contrary to what my friend Jules might say that people must be yes sir, to me. I like challenges, because challenges do make you better as a leader and Mr. Jemmott was one of those persons who really and truly at times challenge me. But despite that, we have maintained very cordial respect for each other and I have always admired his style of work and that was the reason why I had put him in Belize City. As a matter of fact when I transferred him to Belize City I said to me, because he had gone before the interview board last year and we had passed the interview to promoted to senior superintendent and so I said to him if you go to Belize City and you do well I will ensure your promotion to senior superintendent and so it was something that we was looking forward to, but that comes to an end."
A release from the police department says, quote,
"You have left us suddenly, King, but your dedication to the Government of Belize, the Belize Police Department, and the people of Belize will never be forgotten...sleep on OFFICER for we will all meet again one day."
Can Armada Of Alliance Attorneys Rattle The Police?
But for Jemmott to truly sleep in peace, the department he dedicated his life's work to must ensure that they get to the bottom of what actually happened this morning on that pier.
And, with the scale of the personalities involved - and the family background of the only suspect, questions about extraneous pressures being brought to bear on the police naturally arise.
The question is, will, or can strings be pulled to make this all go away? Or can the usual armada of Ashcroft Alliance attorneys create a legal minefield for public prosecutors to get through? Here's what the COMPOL had to say about that:
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police "There is no such thing as legal pressure you know. Some people have a misconception that attorneys can tell the police what to do or how to do their work. That's not the case. Attorneys represent you either before arrest or after arrest at court. The police duty is to ensure that we afford the accused person an opportunity to consul and as long as we do that the attorneys cannot tell us where to detain someone, not to put someone here, not to do this, or not to do that. The attorney can advise his/her client not to cooperate with the investigation. At the end of the day 2 person on a pier, one dead. If you have nothing to say then we will know what to do."
COMPOL On Jasmine and Lord Ashcroft’s Gym
And, of course, the other issue that may raise some eyebrows is Lord Ashcroft's friendship with the police department and the Commissioner specifically.
He recently proved to be a generous patron of the police with the donation of a fully equipped gym back in December.
Commissioner Williams stressed that Lord Ashcroft is not the one in custody:
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police "It was Mr. Ashcroft who donated a gym to us not Jasmine I have absolutely no regret entering into that agreement with Mr. Ashcroft for that gym because I believe that it was something that the police really needed and he was generous enough to offer us the opportunity to get a gym. Mr. Ashcroft has done nothing wrong. The police are not investigating him, his daughter-in-law is a separate entity than he is and so there should be absolutely no reason why the police should be hesitant to do a proper investigation and as a matter a fact, even if it were that we had to investigate Mr. Ashcroft after he had given us a gym it's our duty by law to do so and we would still do the investigation."
So, to wrap up: police continue with an investigation into what surely is the crime of the young decade: a respected senior officer dead, and the only suspect is the daughter in law of the richest man in the land. Again, it is expected that Jasmin Hartin will be held at the San Pedro police station through the weekend - while police continue to gather evidence. We will continue following the case very closely - and you can find regular weekend updates on our facebook page.
All of Belize was abuzz today at the news a well known top cop had been found dead in San Pedro. News Five’s Duane Moody was sent to the scene early today and Andrea Polanco attended the briefing at Headquarters in Belmopan as police take on the duty of investigating the death of one of their own.
Duane Moody [Stand Up]
“He was once the coastal executive officer of the Belize Police Department stationed here at the San Pedro Police Station on Ambergris Caye. But in the wee hours of today, Superintendent Henry Jemmott was fatally shot to the head while socialising in front of a beach resort south of the town.”
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
“Mister Jemmott and a female, one Jasmine, were socialising on a pier somewhere in San Pedro; this was after 12:30 a.m. thereabouts, which would be during curfew time when one single gunshot was heard. Upon investigating, police found the female on a pier and she had what appeared to be blood on her arms and on her clothing. And inside the waters, right near the pier, police recovered the lifeless body of Mister Jemmoth, with one apparent gunshot wound behind the right ear.”
The news of Jemmott’s demise sent shockwaves across the island as well as within the police department. The Superintendent of Police was recently posted in Belize City and had asked for some time off to deal with personal issues.
“Mister Jemmott had worked in various aspects of policing and was recently the officer commanding San Ignacio Police Formation. And in May of this year, he was transferred to Belize City to take over command of precinct two. Mister Jemmott had some personal issues and he had requested time off from Mister Rosado to address those issues. I myself was not aware that he was out on San Pedro until I got the call last night that he had died.”
An intense investigation is being carried out by the department as today, CIB Commander for the Eastern Division, Superintendent Alejandro Cowo, was on the island today leading the investigation. The sister of the deceased flew out to San Pedro today, anxiously awaiting answers. Jemmoth’s service weapon was recovered from the scene.
“Doctor Estradabran will be conducting an inspection as well as a post-mortem on the body today and that inspection/post-mortem should tell us a lot in terms of proximity and trajectory which will assist investigators in determining the distance from which the shot was fired as well as whether or not Mister Jemmott could have caused his own injury or it was caused by someone in his close proximity. I know that some people on social media are saying that we need to be more drastic because there is an attack on law enforcement personnel, but may I say that from our investigation so far, it seems rather personal and not an attack on law enforcement. Our investigation in respect to that matter will continue and we are going to see where the evidence is going to lead us.”
“Have you been able to determine if they are friends, they’re associates, their business partners?”
“From what we know is that they are friends.”
“Are investigators following his movements in those days leading up to his death last night?”
“Well I think that one thing we have found out is that he had gone fishing. I think it was on Wednesday. He spoke to one of his squad brothers, Mister Rivero, and according to Mister Rivero, Jemmott was boasting about his fishing trip and the fishes that he caught. So it is evident that he might have gone out at sea fishing on Wednesday.”
San Pedro Mayor Wally Nunez told News Five that he knew Jemmott well.
Wally Nunez, Mayor, San Pedro
“It is very unfortunate; our island suffers from news like that because we depend on the tourists and it is very unfortunate to hear the news this morning. I personally knew Mister Jemmott when he was officer in charge here on the island; I was a councillor back then in 2012. He was a very good friend of mine and so this news really shocked me this morning. The San Pedro Town Council is offering the full support to the Police Department further the investigation. We don’t know exactly what transpired and we are hoping to get to the bottom of this.”
One person, a woman who is well-known on the island, is in police custody pending the outcome of the investigation.
“She is being investigated in respect to the shooting death of Mister Jemmott. I think that her attorneys are out on the island and should be meeting with her and we will see from there if we get any cooperation from her. Someone is responsible for his death; we owe it to him to ensure that we investigate properly and bring that person or those persons to justice. I can emphatically state that I have not received any calls from anybody above me directing that we deal with the matter in one way or the other. As the commissioner, it is my duty to brief the Prime Minister and my minister. I briefed both of them this morning on the matter and both of them said that we must investigate this matter and the chips may fall where they may.”
“Sir, have authorities considered accidental?”
“That’s an avenue we are also looking at. We have to look at every possibility.”
Duane Moody for News Five.
The commissioner confirmed that the firearm used was Lemmott’s service weapon.