British-Australian sailor admits to killing wife who went 'missing' from sinking yacht on their honeymoon
Lewis Bennett from Poole, Dorset, admitted to a charge of involuntary manslaughter during a change of plea hearing in Miami on November 5
A British-Australian sailor has finally admitted to killing his wife after she mysteriously went missing from their sinking boat on their honeymoon just off the coast of Cuba. Lewis Bennett from Poole, Dorset, admitted to the charge of involuntary manslaughter during a change of plea hearing in Miami on November 5. The 41-year-old was originally accused of murder but the prosecutors reduced the charge to unlawful killing without malice. It was revealed last year that the man did not look for his wife, Isabella, or even activate any flares to signal an emergency.
The Daily Mail reported that he, instead, escaped in a dinghy while the yacht sank to the depths. Attorney Fajardo Orshan said: "Although nothing can ever erase the pain and suffering caused by Lewis Bennett's criminal acts, the US Attorney's Office and our law enforcement partners hope that the defendant's admission of guilt is a step toward justice for the victim, Ms. Isabella Hellmann, and her family."
Orshan continued: "The federal government remains committed to the safety and security of our US citizens, whether they are at home in South Florida or traveling on the high seas." The couple got married just three months before they set off on their adventurous honeymoon in St. Maarten in April 2017. They sailed the yacht, called Surf Into Summer, to Puerto Rico and then to Cuba. The couple finally set off from Cuba for their home in Delray Beach, Florida.
According to court documents, Bennett is an experienced sailor with Australian and British citizenship. On May 15, 2017, he claimed to have woken up after hearing a loud noise while he was resting in the vessel's cabin. He told the court that he climbed outside and saw that the sails and rigging had come loose. He also said that the helm of the yacht was unmanned, and Isabella was not there. She also had limited knowledge of emergency sailing procedures.
Bennett told the court that he could not remember whether he had called out to Isabella but it was clear that he did not deploy any flares in an attempt to illuminate the area and try and find his wife or even signal the position of the yacht to rescue services. The court also heard how Bennett abandoned his sinking vessel and got into a life raft. Expert testimony revealed that the yacht had been sunk on purpose by allowing water into the hull.
The man only called for help when he was in the life raft. This is when he reported that his wife was missing, about 45 minutes after he woke up to the loud sound in the cabin. Isabella's body has still not been found. Initially, Prosecutors said that he allegedly murdered Isabella and intentionally sunk the vessel to put an end to his "marital strife". This would lead to him inheriting her Delray Beach apartment and the contents of her bank account.
Investigators at the time also found that Bennett had been smuggling rare coins when they went to rescue him. They alleged that this could have been a motive to kill his wife. The man reported the coins, which were worth almost £30,000, as stolen from his previous employer in St. Maarten, a year before his wife's death.
At the hearing for Isabella's death, Bennett admitted to transporting the coins and is serving a seven-month jail sentence. He was charged with his wife's death in February 2018 and has remained in jail since. The man faces a maximum sentence of eight years when he is sentenced on January 10, 2019.