Aussie sailor pleads guilty to killing wife before scuttling catamaran

A sailor with joint Australian and British citizenship has admitted killing his new wife who went missing from their catamaran off the coast of Cuba on their honeymoon. 

Lewis Bennett (41) has reached a deal with US prosecutors to plead guilty to the involuntary manslaughter of Isabella Hellmann in exchange for murder charges being dropped. Bennett faces up to eight years jail on the involuntary manslaughter charge and deportation from the U.S.

He initially claimed his wife of three months fell off their catamaran in the Caribbean when they hit a mystery object in the dead of night while he was asleep below deck in May 2017.

Rescuers arrived to find the vessel sinking and Bennett in a life raft. But further investigation found that Bennett had deliberately scuttled the yacht and only made a distress call 45 minutes after his wife allegedly vanished overboard. He didn't search for his wife, Isabella, or activate any flares but instead escaped in a dinghy, leaving the yacht to sink.

The FBI says an inspection of the catamaran before it sank showed portholes below the waterline had been opened and damage to the twin hulls appeared to have been caused from the inside, meaning the boat may have been intentionally scuttled.

Also investigators found Bennett on the life raft with $100,000 worth of coins stolen from a yacht he had worked aboard in 2016.

Bennett pleaded guilty to the coin theft charge and received a seven-month prison sentence. While serving that sentence, he was charged in February with Hellmann's death and has remained jailed.

The couple left their infant daughter, Emelia, with her family when they went on the honeymoon

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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