Lewis Bennett, a dual Australian and U.K. citizen, has been charged with murdering his American wife, Isabella Hellmann. The incident, reported by Bennett as an accident, occurred on their Caribbean honeymoon in May 2017.
The FBI believes that Lewis Bennett, 41, murdered his wife Isabella Hellmann and scuttled the ship they’d been sailing on before fleeing in a life raft. He was arrested on February 20, 2018.
Bennett, of Poole, Dorset, was actually arrested for the murder while awaiting sentencing in a Miami, Florida court for smuggling stolen coins during the ill-fated voyage. Bennett was given a seven-month stint in a federal prison for smuggling $100,000 in gold and silver coins.
Isabella Hellmann’s Death: Murder or Accident?
According to a court document, FBI Special Agent James Kelley said the bureau believes Bennett “knowingly and unlawfully killed” Hellmann, the mother of his child, while they were on their way back home to Florida.
In May 2017, Bennett and his wife Isabella were honeymooning on their 40-foot catamaran in the Caribbean. On May 15, Bennett sent a distress call while sailing near Cay Sal Island in the Bahamas, telling the U.S. Coast Guard that there had been an accident. He said the boat was sinking and his wife was missing.
After being rescued from a life raft, Bennett recounted how he was asleep below deck and Hellmann was at the helm. It was then that he said he heard a crash.
When he got to the deck, he said, Hellmann had vanished. It was also at that time that he realized the catamaran was taking on water. Unable to save the boat or his wife, Bennett said he abandoned ship in a life raft. Hellmann, he believed, had been lost at sea.
Lewis Bennett Makes Odd Request after Wife Disappears
It didn’t take long for the FBI to focus their attention on Lewis Bennett. The couple had only been married for three months at the time of the accident, but their relationship had been rocky following the birth of their daughter, Emelia, in July 2016.
On top of that, Bennett asked for a “letter of presumed death” less than 24 hours after Hellmann’s disappearance. Despite his pleas that he needed to settle her estate, his request was denied.
“(For) a husband (who) would normally want his wife to be found alive, this request is extremely early,” the FBI said.
In Florida, a person can only be declared legally dead after they’ve been missing for at least five years.
In a now-deleted Facebook post from June 2017, Bennett wrote, “It is now my responsibility to ensure [Hellmann’s] legacy is never forgotten. Contrary to statements given in the press and social media, Isabella and I loved each other very much, she was the soulmate I had always searched for, she made my life complete. To think I must move forward without her in my life is something I never wanted to contemplate.”
Bennett added that he and his daughter had returned to the U.K. “to seek the comfort” of friends and family.
FBI Punches Holes in Account of Fatal Yachting Accident
During an investigation, the FBI determined that two holes in the hulls were a result of damage caused from the inside of the ship. The two holes were also made in the exact same location on each of the two hulls. Moreover, the escape hatches on each hull had been left open, allowing water to enter the cabin.
“It does not appear the vessel sinking was caused by accidental damage, rather it appears the vessel was intentionally scuttled,” a naval expert told the FBI. “I cannot think of any items that would accidentally cause similar holes in both hulls at roughly the same time.”
Bennett, who is an experienced sailor, also chose to leave the boat when he could have kept it half-afloat until help arrived.
In January 2018, Lewis Bennett’s family asked the judge in the coin smuggling case to be lenient with his sentencing since Bennett’s young daughter had already lost her mother. The family has not made any official comment since Bennett was subsequently charged with Hellmann’s murder.