Kent

Sarah Wellgreen: Taxi driver jailed for murdering ex-partner

Ben Lacomba
Image caption Ben Lacomba was convicted by a jury at Woolwich Crown Court in October

A taxi driver has been jailed for murdering his ex-partner and dumping her body.

Ben Lacomba was found guilty of killing Sarah Wellgreen, 46, who disappeared in October 2018 from their home in New Ash Green, Kent, at Woolwich Crown Court.

He killed the mother-of-five in a "calculated manner designed to avoid detection". Her body was never found.

Lacomba, 39, who had three children with Ms Wellgreen, was told he would serve at least 27 years in prison.

Sentencing, Judge Christopher Kinch QC said: "No-one can know how you killed Sarah. It must be hoped that she did not suffer too much."

He said Lacomba had deliberately set out to deprive the children of their mother, adding: "It's difficult to imagine something more callous or chilling."

Image copyright Kent Police
Image caption Sarah Wellgreen was the mother of five children

Hiding the body had caused the family an "agony of uncertainty", he said.

"The position you have put your children in is completely unimaginable," Judge Kinch told him.

"As their father, you were one of two people they would look to for nurture and protection.

"Instead, you have taken their mother from them - a crime which is bound to resonate throughout their lives."

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Sarah Wellgreen worked a beautician

After Lacomba was jailed, Ms Wellgreen's son Lewis Burdett said: "Today, as far as the law is concerned, justice has been served for Sarah.

"We hope [Lacomba] will never be released unless he admits his guilt and reveals the location of her grave."

Det Ch Insp Ivan Beasley, from Kent Police, said officers would continue to search for Ms Wellgreen's body.

"We have more searches planned and will continue to do everything in our power to find her so her family can finally lay her to rest," he said.

The search for Ms Wellgreen was one of the largest in the history of the force, with 1,275 areas searched, totalling over 2,782 miles.

At its height, the operation involved around 120 officers a day using police dogs, drones and the marine unit.

Image copyright JIM BENNETT
Image caption Lacomba claimed he was asleep in bed on the night of the killing

During the trial, the court heard the couple met online in 2004, but by the time of her disappearance on 9 October 2018 their relationship was marked by "tensions and problems".

They split up in 2014 but continued to live in the same house although Ms Wellgreen, a beautician, had a mortgage to buy Lacomba out of the property, jurors were told.

During cross-examination, Lacomba claimed he did not know where Ms Wellgreen's body was and had nothing to do with her disappearance.

But the court heard he switched off a CCTV system in the middle of the night and parked his car in an unusual spot in an attempt to evade detection.

'We miss her'

Lacomba claimed he was asleep in bed on the night of the killing.

A statement issued by Ms Wellgreen's family after the court hearing said: "As a family, we miss Sarah every day. There is no bandage big enough to repair the wound that has been left by her premature death.

"We will not however allow Ben Lacomba to destroy our lives.

"Our priority will be to give Sarah's three youngest children every opportunity to be the best they can be and to have a full and happy life knowing their mother loved them."

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