British man jailed for eight years for wife’s boat death

A British man whose wife died after their catamaran sank during their honeymoon has been jailed for eight years in the US for her manslaughter.

Lewis Bennett, 42, from Poole in Dorset, was originally charged with murder as prosecutors claimed he sank the boat intentionally to kill his wife and inherit her Florida estate.

The charge was downgraded to involuntary manslaughter in a plea deal.

He apologised to Isabella Hellman’s family at Tuesday’s sentencing in Miami and asked the judge for a shorter sentence so he could raise the couple’s two-year-old daughter – being looked after by his parents in Scotland.

Hatches underneath the boat were found open. Pic: US Coastguard
Image: Hatches underneath the boat were found open. Pic: US Coastguard

“If you may permit me to be with my daughter as soon as possible,” Bennett said.

“I want to bring her up in a manner that is respectful to my wife’s wishes.”

The plea fell flat though, and Bennett was handed a sentence of eight years imprisonment.

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The couple’s boat went down off the coast of Cuba in May 2017 during their delayed honeymoon.

The FBI found holes in both hulls, which they said were caused from inside the boat, and said the hatches had been deliberately opened to sink the boat.

The entire vessel was almost fully submerged when found by the US Coastguard. Pic: US Coastguard
Image: The entire vessel was almost fully submerged when found by the US Coastguard. Pic: US Coastguard

Bennett claimed he had been resting in the cabin when he was woken by a loud noise, and that when he went on deck he found the sails and rigging loose and his wife missing.

Court documents said Bennett had asked his 41-year-old wife, to take control for the night so he could rest, but that he didn’t ask her to wear a life jacket, harness or personal locator.

Prosecutors said he did not call for help for 45 minutes after realising his wife was gone.

Bennett allegedly opened the hatches and damaged the hulls himself Pic: US Coastguard
Image: Prosecutors claimed Bennett opened the hatches and damaged the hulls himself Pic: US Coastguard

Lawyer Kurt Lunkenheimer said on Tuesday that Bennett “did not search for her diligently enough despite him being an experienced sailor”.

Bennett was airlifted to the Florida Keys but his wife – a US citizen born in Cuba – has never been found.

Also included in court documents were shots of the raft Bennett used to escape, along with his luggage, supplies and a hoard of rare coins worth tens of thousands of dollars.

He was smuggling the silver coins after stealing them from a former employer and he was handed a seven-month prison sentence after admitting the theft last year.

A judge declared Isabella Hellman dead earlier this month to clear the way for the couple’s daughter to inherit her mother’s estate.

Source: SKY NEWS

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