British sailor jailed for eight years in US after honeymoon boat death of wife

A newly-married Anglo-Australian sailor whose wife died after their yacht fell off the coast of Cuba during a honeymoon, was imprisoned in the US for eight years for her manslaughter.

Lewis Bennett, 42, was convicted Tuesday in a Miami court for murdering Isabella Hellmann, 41.

Bennett, from Poole, Dorset, was initially accused of murder and deliberately beaten the catamaran before pleading guilty of the lesser burden of involuntary manslaughter.

He also has to pay $ 22,910 (about £ 18,000) for restitution and will be supervised three years after serving his sentence, according to a US justice department spokeswoman.

Bennett apologized to the Hellmann family during the hearing before the American district judge Federico Moreno, who rejected his defense lawyer’s request for a seven-year sentence.

The couple had been married for three months when they left for St. Maarten, Puerto Rico and Cuba at the end of April for a delayed honeymoon.

The couple, who had recently had a daughter, had sailed from Cuba to their home in Delray Beach in Florida when Bennett sent a distress signal on May 15, 2017.

The experienced sailor, with dual British-Australian citizenship, claimed that he woke up to find his starting passenger on the 34ft ship, Surf Into Summer, but did not report her absence until 45 minutes later after fleeing a life raft with Cuban trinkets , a tea set and a jar with peanut butter.

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It was found in a twist that he smuggled rare coins worth nearly $ 30,000, which prosecutors indicated as another possible reason why he might have wanted to kill his wife. He had reported that the gold and silver collectables had been stolen a year earlier from a former employer on St. Maarten.

Bennett was already serving a seven-month prison sentence after admitting the transport of the coins.

He was plucked from the sea, but despite an extensive search, his wife’s body was never found and she was declared dead by a judge earlier this month.

Prosecutors had claimed that he had killed her and deliberately sunk the catamaran to end his “marital fight” and to inherit her house and wealth, but they reduced the indictment of illegal killing without malice and Bennett pleaded guilty.

Written by Tommy Kilmer

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