British man jailed for killing new wife and sinking boat in gold coins smuggling plot

Sailor already in jail for transporting valuables admits unlawful killing without malice

Tuesday 28 May 2019 18:59
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Newlyweds Lewis Bennett and Isabella Hellmann were sailing in Cuba when their catamaran sank
Newlyweds Lewis Bennett and Isabella Hellmann were sailing in Cuba when their catamaran sank

A British man has been jailed for eight years in the US for killing his wife when their yacht sank as he was smuggling rare coins worth nearly £30,000.

The catamaran of newlyweds Lewis Bennett, 42, and Isabella Hellmann, 41, sank off Cuba in May 2017, shortly after the birth of their daughter.

Bennett was plucked from the sea but, despite an extensive search, his wife’s body was never found. She was declared dead by a judge earlier this month.

Prosecutors had alleged he murdered her and deliberately sank the catamaran to end his “marital strife” and inherit her home and wealth. However, they reduced the charge to unlawful killing without malice, to which Bennett pleaded guilty.

Bennett, of Poole, Dorset, had reported the gold and silver collectables stolen from a former employer a year earlier. He was already serving a seven-month jail term for transporting the coins when he was sentenced in Miami for the involuntary manslaughter.

He must also pay $22,910 (£18,000) in restitution and will spend three years on supervised release after his sentence, a spokeswoman for the US Department of Justice said.

Bennett apologised to Ms Hellmann’s family during the hearing.

The experienced sailor, with dual British-Australian citizenship, claimed he woke to find his wife missing from the 34ft vessel.

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But he reported her absence only 45 minutes later, after he had fled in a life-raft carrying Cuban trinkets, a tea set and a jar of peanut butter.

Prosecutors cited the smuggled coins as another potential reason he may have wanted his wife dead.

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