British sailor admits killing wife at sea

image copyrightPA/Broward Sheriff's Office
image captionLewis Bennett was given a seven-month jail sentence for smuggling stolen coins

A British man who claimed his American wife had disappeared at sea after their catamaran sank off the coast of Cuba has admitted killing her.

Lewis Bennett and Isabella Hellmann had been married three months when she was reported missing by her husband.

Detectives later learnt that the boat had been deliberately sunk. Her body has never been found.

On Monday Bennett, 41, admitted a charge of involuntary manslaughter at a hearing in Miami, Florida.

The British-Australian dual citizen, from Poole, Dorset, had been due to stand trial in December charged with second degree murder.

But he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of unlawful killing without malice after striking a plea deal.

The couple had been sailing the 37ft (11m) catamaran from Cuba to their home in Delray Beach, Florida, when Bennett reported Ms Hellmann missing in an SOS call on 15 May 2017.

He claimed their catamaran was sinking and his 41-year-old wife was nowhere to be seen.

image copyrightUS Coast Guard
image captionBennett reported his wife missing in an SOS call as their catamaran was sinking

However, the authorities soon suspected that Bennett had killed his wife, who was the mother of his child.

In the months after her disappearance he asked for her to be declared dead.

Prosecutors alleged that he was motivated by money, as he would have inherited Ms Hellmann's apartment in Florida and the contents of her bank account.

During his rescue investigators also found that he had been smuggling stolen antique coins, worth nearly £30,000.

He had reported the coins as being stolen from a former employer in St Maarten a year earlier.

Bennett is currently serving a seven-month jail sentence after pleading guilty to transporting the coins.

He faces a maximum eight-year prison term when he is sentenced over his wife's death next year.

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