Lewis Bennett has pleaded guilty to the federal charge of involuntary manslaughter of his wife Isabella Hellmann

Briton Lewis Bennett entered the plea of involuntary manslaughter of his wife Isabella Hellmann during a court hearing in Miami, Florida, on Monday (5 November).

The 41-year-old man from Poole will be sentenced on 10 January 2019 and faces a maximum term of 8 years in jail. He is already serving a 7-month sentence for pleading guilty to smuggling $38,480 (£29,450) of rare coins, which he stole from a former employer.

Lewis Bennett and Isabella Hellmann, his wife of three months, were on their honeymoon sailing from Cuba to Florida when their 37ft catamaran, Surf Into Summer, capsized on 15 May 2017.

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 has never been found.

Investigators examining the couple’s catamaran found that the boat had been scuttled.

 

18 September

Lewis Bennett, who is currently serving a 7-month jail term for admitting smuggling $38,480 (£29,450) of rare coins, has been accused of killing his wife Isabella Hellmann by sinking their catamaran whilst on honeymoon, to inherit her estate.

Isabella Hellmann’s family bugged the couple apartment in Delray Beach, Florida to record Bennett’s conversation, whom they suspected was involved in Hellmann’s disappearance. Her body was never recovered when their catamaran capsized on 15 May 2017.

Prosecutor Benjamin Greenberg asked a Florida judge that conversations in which former estate agent Hellmann discussed her marital problems with her husband be used in evidence. According to the recordings, Hellmann and Bennett were having financial problems and were disagreeing on how to raise their daughter and on a potential move to Australia.

The Guardian reports Greenberg saying: “Hellmann’s murder would remove the marital strife from the defendant’s life, allow the defendant to live his life as he pleased, and would enable him to inherit money from Hellmann’s estate, all of which provide strong circumstantial proof that the defendant had a strong motive to murder Hellmann” .

Bennett asked that his wife be declared dead, in which case he’d stand to inherit her apartment and content of her bank account.

Prosecutors have also alleged that Hellmann may have found out her husband had smuggled the rare coins, which he’d stolen from a former employer, the owner of St Maarten-based Kitty R, a ship Bennett was working on as first officer.

The 41-year-old man from Poole is accused of second degree murder and will go on trial in December.

 

21 February 

Lewis Bennett, whose wife Isabella Hellman went missing when their catamaran mysteriously capsized on 15 May 2017 as they were sailing from Cuba to Florida, has been arrested by the FBI on suspicion of murder.

Bennet, from Poole, was in Miami waiting to be sentenced for stealing £77,000 worth of rare coins from a former employer.

The Guardian reports that FBI special agent James Kelley said in a court document that the bureau believed Bennett “knowingly and unlawfully killed” Hellmann.

Lewis Bennett and Isabella Hellmann, his wife of three months, were on their honeymoon when their boat capsized on 15 May.

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 has never been found.

 

1 December

Lewis Bennett, 40,  the British man who was accused of stealing 617 coins from St Maarten-based Kitty R, a ship he was working on as first officer, has pleaded guilty to the charges.

He had originally claimed that the coins had been stolen from the Kitty R but some of the coins worth over £3,000 were  found on Bennett’s life raft when his catamaran capsized near the Bahamas in May 2016, 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.

Bennett was remanded in custody in Miami and now faces up to ten years in jail after changing his plea to guilty.

The British man had been on a honeymoon sailing holiday with Isabella Hellmann, his wife of three months and mother to his baby daughter, when their boat, Surf in the Sun, mysteriously capsized on 15 May as they were sailing from Cuba to Florida.

Isabella Helmann went missing during the accident. The FBI is continuing to investigate her disappearance.

 

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.”

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.

 

Report by Stef Bottinelli and Katy Stickland