World News

Man whose wife was lost at sea now accused in her death

Man whose wife was lost at sea now accused in her death

The FBI has filed a second-degree murder charge against Lewis Bennett for his alleged involvement in the murder of his wife, Isabella Hellman, in 2017.

Lewis Bennett, 41, was arrested on February 16 after an FBI investigation found evidence discrediting his story that his wife, Isabella Hellman, the mother of his 9-month-old daughter, vanished from their 40-foot vessel when it hit something in open worldwide waters while he was asleep in the cabin below deck, according to a criminal complaint obtained by ABC News.

"The opening of both escape hatches is unexplainable as an accident and defies prudent seamanship", the Federal Bureau of Investigation quoted a Coast Guard expert as saying.

Authorities revealed a Coast Guard expert determined the catamaran had suffered intentional damage, not from a collision, but "from inside the vessel" in both hulls.

Lewis Bennett, 41, of Poole, Dorset, was arrested while he was waiting to be sentenced at a court in Miami for smuggling stolen coins during the voyage in May from which he was rescued alone.

Investigators said they found evidence that Bennett had intentionally tried to sink the boat, which was a sailing catamaran.

Investigators suspect Bennett killed his 41-year-old wife in order to collect on an insurance policy and take sole possession of their marital assets, including bank accounts and a home she owned in Delray Beach, Florida, according to court documents. A four-day air and sea search for Hellman was unsuccessful. The woman's body was never found, and the Coast Guard called off the missing persons search just a few days after her disappearance.

Under Florida law, Hellmann would have to be missing for five years before being legally presumed dead.

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He said when he went on deck, his wife had disappeared.

Bennett was rescued the next day from a life raft about 30 miles west of Cay Sal, Bahamas. He said he activated the autopilot and left Hellman above to keep watch.

Among Bennett's belongings in the raft were 225 coins with a value of about £3,240, the complaint said.

Family members of Isabella Hellmann sent a three-sentence letter to U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King on Friday asking to see their granddaughter and niece.

Ms Hellman's family wants Emelia returned to the US.

In his statement, Kelley indicated that Bennett's story of his catamaran crashing into something in open waters raised suspicions.

"I can not think of any items that would accidentally cause similar holes in both hulls at roughly the same time".


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