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British sailor Lewis Bennett admits killing wife at sea on Caribbean honeymoon

Mirror logo Mirror 06/11/2018 Dave Burke
a close up of a man with a beard looking at the camera: Lewis Bennett pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter © Broward Sheriff's Office Lewis Bennett pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter

A British sailor has admitted killing his Colombian wife after the boat they were on sank during their honeymoon.

Lewis Bennett, 41, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, having initially denied killing Isabella Hellman. Her body has never been found despite a huge search in the waters of the Caribbean, off Cuba.

A court in Florida heard that Bennett made virtually no effort to find his wife, instead loading items into a life raft, the Palm Beach Post reports.

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Judge Federico A. Moreno said the charge related to "gross negligence amounting to wanton and reckless disregard for human life".

Mining engineer Bennett – who lived with his wife and their two-year-old daughter in Delray Beach, Florida – has agreed a plea deal that will avoid him going on trial next month for second degree murder.

He could face eight years behind bars when he is sentenced on January 10.

a woman smiling for the camera: Isabella Hellmann vanished in May last year, but her body was never found © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Isabella Hellmann vanished in May last year, but her body was never found

Prosecutors had alleged that Bennett killed Isabella, 41, then sank their 37ft catamaran to inherit her estate.

Court papers revealed they had fought over finances and the way daughter Emelia was being raised.

It was initially alleged that Bennett deliberately caused the boat to sink  © Credits: USCGSoutheast It was initially alleged that Bennett deliberately caused the boat to sink 

Texts from Isabella were revealed – in one she wrote: “You make me crazy shouting, yelling and swearing.”

Estate agent Isabella vanished in May last year. Bennett claimed she was at the helm as he slept, but he was jolted awake to find the boat badly damaged and no sign of her.

a close up of a woman: Ms Hellman died in May last year  © Credits: WPTV Ms Hellman died in May last year 

Bennett, a Bangor University graduate, told the US Coast Guard that Hellmann was on deck and wearing a life jacket as he went to bed at 8pm on May 14, just a few hours after they had left Havana.

He placed a distress call five hours later and was alone when a helicopter crew pulled him from the sea, about 70 miles south of Florida, in the early hours of May 15.

a man and a woman posing for a picture: The couple were on their honeymoon when the boat sank © Credits: Facebook The couple were on their honeymoon when the boat sank

Prosecutors initially alleged he murdered her and deliberately scuttled the vessel to end his "marital strife", thus inheriting her apartment where they lived in Delray Beach and the contents of her bank account.

Investigators also discovered that Bennett was smuggling rare coins during his rescue, which they alleged could have been a further motive to kill her.

water next to the ocean with Mauna Loa in the background: The boat had left Havana shortly before it sank © Credits: USCGSoutheast The boat had left Havana shortly before it sank

Bennett had reported the coins, worth nearly £30,000, as being stolen from a former employer in St Maarten a year earlier.

He admitted transporting the coins and is currently serving a seven-month jail sentence.

a group of people standing on a boat: Bennett was quizzed by the FBI after his wife disappeared © Credits: USCGSoutheast Bennett was quizzed by the FBI after his wife disappeared

Ms Hellman wrote in texts to her husband that she "found an angry person" when she came home and told Bennett he did not "respect her any more" according to The Times.

The newspaper reports that the texts are included in court documents which read: "Sometimes I can be a pain in the a** and more but you need to change your attitude... you make me crazy shouting, yelling, swearing... YOU ARE PUSHING ME AWAY."

"'This morning I was afraid to get home with the coffee but I walked in and I was right, I found an angry person, this is very sad."

Months before Ms Hellman's disappearance, The Times report that another said: "If you don’t like me or love me anymore let us fix this asap because is very pathetic the way you treated me all the time."

According to the publication, the messages reportedly show that Colombian-born Ms Hellman sensed a shift in her husband's behaviour after the birth of their child, Emelia, in 2016.

Their daughter is now living with his parents in Southampton.

Attorney Fajardo Orshan said: "Although nothing can ever erase the pain and suffering caused by Lewis Bennett's criminal acts, the US Attorney's Office and our law enforcement partners hope that the defendant's admission of guilt is a step toward justice for the victim, Ms Isabella Hellmann, and her family.

"The federal government remains committed to the safety and security of our US citizens, whether they are at home in South Florida or travelling on the high seas."

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