Lewis Bennett charged with murdering wife on catamaran off Cuba

Lewis Bennett, 41, was arrested in a federal court in Miami for the second-degree murder of Isabella Hellmann when he arrived to be sentenced for smuggling stolen coins on the same voyage.

The FBI said in court documents it believes Bennett “knowingly and unlawfully killed” Ms Hellmann, the mother of their 19-month-old daughter, Emelia.

Last May, the newlyweds were heading back to their home in Delray Beach, Florida, when Bennett says he felt the boat hit something.

The 41-year-old said his wife was at the helm at the time but when he looked for her she was gone and the 37-foot Surf Into Summer was sinking.

An expert later said the vessel had been “intentionally scuttled” after two underwater escape hatches were opened.

Bennett reported that his wife was missing in an SOS call in the early hours of 15 May.

Investigators claim Bennett did not activate his satellite phone or register his personal locator beacon until he was in Cuba on the final leg of the voyage.

He wanted to “ensure his own rescue and survival after murdering his wife and intentionally scuttling his catamaran,” they said.

The US Coast Guard searched for four days but her body was not found.

Bennett, from Poole, took to a life raft and was rescued hours later.

He had a backpack, buoys, gallons of water and nine plastic tubes containing 235 stolen English and Canadian coins with him when the Coast Guard found him.

The haul, worth up to £28,500 ($38,480) was found to be part of a haul valued at £72,000 ($100,000) stolen from an employer’s boat in 2016.

Bennett, a British-Australian citizen, was sentenced to seven months in prison, followed by three years of probation for charges relating to the discovery of the coins.

A day after the search for Ms Hellmann was abandoned, Bennett asked Palm Beach County Court to have Hellmann declared dead so he could settle her estate.

A judge refused his request.

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