Brit sailor who killed wife at sea during honeymoon jailed for eight years
A British sailor who killed his wife at sea during their honeymoon has been jailed for eight years.
Lewis Bennett, 42, had been accused of murdering Isabella Hellmann, 41, during a sailing trip from Cuba to Delray Beach, Florida, in May 2017.
But Bennett, from Dorset, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter at a court in Miami.
He said his wife’s death was an accident caused by his negligence although said he did not witness what happened.
The newlyweds, who had recently welcomed a baby daughter, had been sailing from Cuba to Florida when Bennett sent a distress signal on May 15, 2017.
The experienced sailor, who has a dual British-Australian citizenship, claimed he awoke to find his wife missing from the 34ft vessel, Surf Into Summer.
But he failed to raise the alarm for 45 minutes after he fled the catamaran in a life raft carrying Cuban trinkets, a tea set and a jar of peanut butter.
He was later plucked from the sea but, despite an extensive search, Isabella's body was never found. She was declared dead by a judge earlier this month.
The US coast guard called off its search for Hellmann after four days of being alerted to her disappearance.
Within a day, Bennett requested, without success, a “letter of presumed death.”
Shocking images of the sunken vessel show how Bennett opened escape hatches and smashed giant holes in the hull to intentionally sink his boat.
Prosecutors had alleged Bennett murdered his wife and deliberately sunk the catamaran to end his "marital strife" and inherit her Delray Beach home and wealth.
But they reduced the charge to one of unlawful killing without malice, and Bennett pleaded guilty.
In a bizarre twist, Bennett was found to be smuggling rare coins worth nearly £30,000 during his rescue which prosecutors cited as another potential reason he may have wanted Isabella dead.
He had reported the gold and silver collectables stolen from a former employer in St Maarten a year earlier.
Bennett is currently serving a seven-month jail stretch after admitting transporting the loot.
The couple's two-year-old daughter now lives in Edinburgh and is cared for by Bennett's parents and sister.
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