Lewis Bennett, whose wife Isabella Hellmann disappeared when their catamaran capsized near the Bahamas, has been arrested by the FBI in connection with the theft of coins worth £77k

30 August

Lewis Bennett was arrested by the FBI yesterday (29 August) for the alleged theft of rare coins worth £77,000.

The British man, 38 is accused of stealing 617 coins from St Maarten-based Kitty R, a ship he was working on as first officer.

According to the federal complaint, the owner of Kitty R had purchased the rare coins in September 2015.

The silver and gold coins were stashed inside plastic tubes on the vessel but were stolen between May 5 and 6. The owner did not report the theft at the time because the goods were not listed on his insurance policy, My Palm Beach Post reports.

However Bennett filed a police report in St. Maarten on 8 May. He claimed that neither he nor the owner of Kitty R were on the vessel at the time of the alleged theft.

Some of the coins worth over £3,000 were however found on Bennett’s life raft when his catamaran capsized near the Bahamas, court documents state.

More coins, for the value of £20,000, were found in shoes in Lewis Bennett’s apartment in Florida during an FBI raid in June.

Lewis Bennett was on honeymoon with Isabella Hellmann, his wife of three months, when their boat called Surf in the Sun capsized in mysterious circumstances on 15 May as they were sailing from Cuba to Florida.

According to Bennett, the night of the accident he’d gone to sleep below deck just after 8pm, leaving his 41-year-old wife above deck. He stated that she was wearing a life jacket at the time. Bennett claimed he woke up in the middle of the night when his catamaran started taking on water but there was no sign of Hellmann. Her body was never found.

Lewis Bennett is due to appear in court today in Florida on coin theft charges.

 

6 June

The US Coast Guard has lost track of a catamaran  – the last place where Isabella Hellmann was seen before she disappeared three weeks ago.

The mother-of-one was on board the catamaran, Surf in Summer, with her British husband, Lewis Bennett, when the boat began sinking off the Bahamas Banks.

Hellmann’s husband told the Coast Guard that he woke up on 15 May after the catamaran “struck something” about 30 miles off Cay Sal.

He said he went on deck to find the catamaran taking on water and no sign of his wife.

A four day search failed to find any trace of 41-year-old Isabella Hellmann, who is from Delray Beach, Palm Beach, Florida.

A missing person investigation has now been launched by the FBI and the US Coast Guard.

Hellmann and Bennett were sailing from Cuba to Florida on a belated honeymoon when the incident happened.

The couple have only been married three months, and have a baby daughter who was not on board at the time.

Missing Florida woman Isabella Hellmann who was last seen on her husband's catamaran in May

Isabella Hellmann’s family have set up a ‘Find Isabella’ Facebook group

Now, the US Coast Guard has admitted losing track of the 37-foot Surf into Summer catamaran.

The Palm Beach Post reported yesterday (5 June) that the US Coast Guard lost track of the boat after the onboard electronic beacon stopped working on 26 May.

It said this was confirmed yesterday by US Coast Guard spokesman, Jonathan Lally, who said that “we haven’t had track of it or seen the boat since.”

Continued below…

Previously, the Coast Guard said that the retrieval of Surf into Summer was the responsibility of Hellmann’s husband, Lewis Bennett. It added the wreck had been marked and a navigation hazard advisory sent out.

It also stated that it had inspected the boat “the best they could from the surface”, and that the “hulls had neither visible holes nor obvious places where water could have filled them, just deep scrapes at the back ends of each”.

It was too dangerous for divers to explore the inside of the vessel, but the US Coast Guard stated that rescuers had “banged on the side” of the hulls and there was no answer.

A spokesman for the US Coast Guard also added that Hellmann’s body was not thought to be inside the catamaran.