NEWS
25/01/2019 11:30 GMT | Updated 25/01/2019 11:35 GMT

New Photos Reveal Damage To Boat Of Brit Sailor Lewis Bennett Who Killed Wife

US prosecutors said they will seek a maximum sentence for Bennett.

New images reveal the extent of damage to the catamaran of a British sailor who killed his wife on their honeymoon.

Lewis Bennett admitted manslaughter last year following American Isabella Hellmann’s disappearance at sea in 2017 during a tour of the Caribbean.

The experienced sailor, originally from Poole, Dorset, was found alone off the coast of Cuba near his overturned vessel by the US Coastguard, and told rescuers he “did not know” what had happened to his 41-year-old wife.

The newlyweds had started their expedition in St Maarten, before sailing the catamaran to Puerto Rico and Cuba. The incident happened on the return to their home in Delray Beach, Florida.  

Broward Sheriffs Office/PA
Lewis Bennett pled guilty to his wife's manslaughter last year.

The pictures, taken after Bennett, 41, was rescued and during a search for Hellmann, appear to show damage was inflicted to the craft’s hull from the inside, according to CBS12.

Photos taken by the US coastguard depict Bennett’s submerged boat upside down and show how hatches were open, allowing water to flood the boat.

Bennett was initially charged with Hellmann’s murder, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter in November last year.

The images were released to the court as part of a submission by prosecutors in a bid to convince a judge that Bennett deserved a sentence longer than normal guidelines suggest.

Prosecutors also highlighted Bennett’s actions immediately after he discovered Hellmann was missing, including the loading of luggage into a life raft.

Prosecutor Kurt Lunkenheimer said in a written submission that “the fact that [Bennett] would pack all of these items into a life raft, but not actively and diligently look for his wife” showed why a longer eight-year sentence would be appropriate. 

USCG
New photos show the moment US Coastguard rescuers approached the sunken catamaran off the coast of Cuba.
USCG
Hatches underneath the boat were found open.
USCG
The entire vessel was found capsized and almost fully submerged.
PA
A large gash was found in the boat's hull.

A court previously heard that Bennett did not search for his wife with either the catamaran or the attached dinghy, nor did he immediately activate any emergency equipment or raise the alarm when he discovered she was missing.

Investigators later discovered that Bennett was smuggling rare coins during his rescue.

As part of his plea, Bennett said he would not ask for a sentence below seven years.

But Hellmann’s family have said they believe Bennett should face harsher penalties and a full trial.

A sentencing hearing is due to take place in Miami, Florida, on Tuesday.