September 18, 2018
On the 15th of May of 2017 a 41 year old real estate agent from Florida went missing while on a belated honeymoon trip with her husband. Isabella Hellmann and her husband of three months, Lewis Bennett, ventured out on a 2 week sailing trip starting on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean. They planned to travel through Puerto Rico and Cuba before finally returning home to Florida, when on the last leg of the journey, Hellmann went missing.
Lewis Bennett, an experienced sailor from Dorset, England, claimed that he was sleeping below deck at around 1AM when he felt the sailboat crash into something. He was exhausted from the trip, he said, and had retired to his cabin, leaving Isabella in charge.They were sailing on auto-pilot, just over 100KM from the shore near Key West, Florida when tragedy struck and the ship collided with something in the water.
Bennett ran up to the deck to check on his wife and survey the damage to the catamaran when he realized that Isabella was nowhere to be found. He told investigators that he noticed the mast was loose and believed it may have struck his wife and thrown her overboard. Soon after, the boat began to fill with water and capsized. Bennett made a distress call to report his wife missing and informed the coast guard that his boat was sinking.
Mr. Bennett told investigators that Isabella was always wearing her life vest when on deck, but despite scanning the surface of the water and calling out her name, he couldn’t locate her.
Hellmann had been in regular contact with her family via a satellite phone the couple kept on the vessel and she had checked in with her sister while sailing out of Cuba just a few hours before she fell overboard.
Lewis Bennett collected his belongings and scrambled onto a life raft. He was rescued three hours later by coast guard responders who reported that at a glance, they could not identify the site of damage to the vessel. There were no visable holes or tears to the catamaran however there was some cosmetic damage to the back of the boat in the form of deep scratches. The coastguard claimed that it was Bennett’s responsibility to retrieve his boat- a task that could prove difficult due to the malfunction of the boats electronic beacon signal. A four day search for the missing woman by sea and air turned up nothing. A day or so after the extensive search was exhausted; Bennett reportedly requested a document officially declaring his wife “presumed dead”. Such a document would allow Mr. Bennett to take control of his missing wife's property and finances.
Bennett was found on a lifeboat with rolls of rare silver coins worth thousands of dollars, which he had recovered from the catamaran before bailing out. The coins were identified as stolen and Bennett confessed to stealing them from a Yacht he had sailed the previous year.
Isabella Hellman lived in a condominium in the small city of Delray Beach on the Southeast coast of Florida. She shared the residence with Lewis Bennett and their 9 month old daughter. The family had moved to the apartment only a few months earlier. Investigators were seen searching the apartment and carrying out several boxes of evidence in the process. The FBI recovered even more stolen coins from the couple’s home, totaling thousands of dollars. Lewis Bennett was later arrested for transporting stolen coins / smuggling and sentenced to seven months in jail.
Lewis Bennett, who is of both British and Australian citizenship, is said to have purchased one way tickets to the U.K for both himself and his daughter. Hellman’s family begged Lewis Bennett not to take the child from them so soon after the disappearance of Isabella, to no avail.
It has been reported in various online articles that Lewis Bennett does not have a good relationship with Hellmann’s family and that accusations have been publically thrown in both directions, with Hellmann’s family accusing Lewis of murdering his own wife. Lewis accused his wife’s family of theft after they took items belonging to missing Isabella from her Delray Beach apartment- including her engagement ring and computer which they refused to return to Mr. Bennett.
Hellman’s family has not been in contact with the couple’s child and is unaware of the child’s location. Various online reports allege the child may be in the care of her U.K based grandparents.
Inspection of the catamaran along with the expert advice of the vessels manufacturers revealed that the damage to the boat had been caused from the inside- indicating that Mr. Bennett had most likely damaged the boat intentionally to sink it.
Mr. Bennett and Ms. Hellmann had allegedly been arguing about financial issues. The couple had over $2000 worth of debt as well as debt on multiple credit cards. Lewis Bennett wanted to raise their daughter in Australia, while Isabelle wanted to stay in the US with her family. The couple was reportedly stressed with the circumstances and was constantly arguing. Investigators suspect that Lewis Bennett murdered his own wife to inherit her estate, they believe that his swiftness in attempting to attain documents declaring Ms. Hellmann “presumed dead” would aid him in taking control of her Delray Beach condo, bank accounts and personal possessions. Eliminating Ms. Hellmann would also make it easier for him to relocate his daughter and raise her outside of the U.S.
41 year old Lewis Bennett has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of his wife, Isabella Hellmann. He has been accused of second degree murder and a trial is set to commence later this year.
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November 23, 2021