It's like the plot from a bad sailing movie. It features a mysterious Australian plumber, a sailing cat that apparently hit something and was abandoned, an attractive Columbian national who is missing presumed dead, and her nine-month-old daughter.
DELRAY BEACH — On Tuesday night, a neighbor watched out the window of her condo west of the city as official-looking men wearing powder-blue latex gloves searched Lewis Bennett’s car and questioned him as he stood nearby.
Neighbors say they last saw Isabella Hellmann weeks before Bennett, her newlywed husband, says he left with her on a two-week romantic sailing jaunt through the Tropics — one that ended with Bennett being rescued at sea.
Bennett said his catamaran struck something while he slept and that he came topside to find the boat sinking and no trace of Hellmann — a 41-year-old real estate broker, his wife of three months and the mother of the couple’s 9-month-old daughter.
The Coast Guard and the FBI both have confirmed they are jointly conducting a “missing person investigation” into Hellmann’s disappearance.
The Palm Beach Post has been unable to reach Bennett, 40, a dual British-Australian citizen with few ties to Florida and an enigmatic past. Hellmann’s family spoke briefly at the start of a Coast Guard search that would cover four days and 6,600 miles, an area nearly three times the size of Palm Beach County. Since then, relatives have declined to speak with The Post.
What happened in those evening hours on the high seas, about 70 miles southeast of Key West, remains, in large part, a mystery. Some of it authorities know, but won’t yet reveal; some was met with, “We don’t know.”
On May 17, the night before the U.S. Coast Guard called off the search, neighbor David Mayer said last week he approached Bennett to express his concern and sympathy.
“He said, ‘Yeah. I’m going to be leaving for England. I’ve got to move on with my life,’ ” Mayer recalled. “I said, ‘What about the baby?’ He stopped and said, “Oh. I guess I’ve got to take her with me, too.’ ”
Read the rest of the story, including reference to a Queensland solar company, here.