British-Australian Lewis Bennett has been sentenced to eight years in jail in Florida, USA. The 42-year-old sailor has been found guilty of the murder of his own wife, the 41-year-old Isabella Hellmann. The woman disappeared into the ocean during the couple’s honeymoon.
Three months after their wedding, Lewis Bennett and Isabella Hellmann left for their honeymoon. It started on St. Maarten, the beautiful island in the Caribbean Sea, with their own catamaran “Surf Into Summer”. What started as an idyllic and romantic trip, eventually ended in the tragic death of Isabella.
According to Bennett, his wife Isabella disappeared when the catamaran had sailed against something at night and the boat was sinking. “My wife has disappeared,” he said in a panicky phone call to the Coast Guard. He was able to save himself. He had left the catamaran with a life jacket, but also with some tea and butter. The emergency services searched for Isabella for four days, but never found the woman again.
Her husband kept trying to get her declared dead in the days and weeks after that so that he could settle her inheritance. The judge refused that until there would be certainty about what exactly had happened to the woman. However, there was no answer, despite several house searches at Bennett to see if he was indeed innocent. “She is my soul mate,” Bennett said during various interviews. “I thought we would be together forever.”
The court case now shows that Bennett did not notify the emergency services until after he had been floating around in his lifeboat for 45 minutes. It also came to light, that he smuggled rare coins with a value of around $30,000. A possible motive to get Isabella out of the way, the court finds. Because perhaps his brand new wife did not want Bennett to be involved in such matters.
Almost a year after the boat accident, Bennett was arrested unexpectedly. He was suspected of having killed his wife. According to the FBI, he had deliberately damaged the boat from the inside and had ensured that he himself could escape safely. Photos clearly show holes and an open escape hatch. “He deliberately killed his child’s mother,” said Special Agent James Kelley.
Bennett finally yielded during the umpteenth interrogation: he pleaded guilty for involuntary manslaughter and insisted that her death was an accident he was not a witness to.
The man has now been sentenced, eight years in jail awaiting him. He also has to pay his wife’s relatives a compensation of more than $22,000. The couple’s child, the toddler Emelia, is staying with her grandparents.