In Brief

Brit accused of faking boat accident after killing wife

US prosecutors claims Lewis Bennett and Isabella Hellman were ‘consistently’ arguing before her death

A British sailor murdered his wife and then deliberately sank their catamaran during their honeymoon cruise in a bid to inherit her estate, US prosecutors claim.

Lewis Bennett, of Poole, Dorset, was found to be smuggling rare stolen coins when he was rescued alone on a life raft off the coast of Cuba in May 2017. He and Isabella Hellmann, both 41, had been sailing in the Caribbean when Bennett made an emergency call saying that she was missing and their 37ft boat was sinking.

According to The Times, Bennett told his rescuers that he had been he was woken by a crash but could not find his wife, the mother of his young daughter.

If Hellman were presumed to have died in an accident, he would be in line to inherit her home and the contents of her bank account, notes The Daily Telegraph.

However, investigators claim there were inconsistencies in Bennett’s story. In February the FBI charged him with Hellmann’s murder, which he denies.

Court papers filed in the US this week allege that he killed his wife to end their “marital strife”.

The documents reveal that the family of the missing woman, a former estate agent, bugged her apartment  in Delray Beach, Florida, “to listen to Bennett’s conversations because they suspected him in her disappearance”, says The Guardian.

Prosecutor Benjamin Greenberg also asked a Florida judge to admit into evidence conversations with loved ones where Hellmann is said to have discussed arguments with her husband over a mooted move to Australia, their dire finances and the raising of their daughter.

Greenberg said the conversations show that couple were “consistently” rowing, with “potentially one of the arguments ultimately resulting in the murder of Hellmann”.

Bennett is currently serving a seven-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to transporting coins worth $38,480 (£29,275).

Prosecutors allege that Colombian-born Hellmann may have discovered that her husband of three months was in possession of the gold and silver coins, stolen from his former employer, which would have made her an accomplice to smuggling.

Greenberg argues in the court papers that this “potentially led to an intense argument resulting in Hellmann’s murder”.

“Hellmann’s murder would remove the marital strife from the defendant’s life, allow the defendant to live his life as he pleased, and would enable him to inherit money from Hellmann’s estate, all of which provide strong circumstantial proof that the defendant had a strong motive to murder Hellmann,” the presecutor concludes.

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