Australian Man Who Said Wife Disappeared At Sea Charged With Murder By FBI

An Australian man who claimed that his wife was lost at sea has been charged with second-degree murder in the US.

The FBI has alleged that while sailing from Cuba to Florida, mining engineer Lewis Bennett killed his wife Isabella Hellman with “malice aforethought” and sank his catamaran to cover up the crime in May of last year.

According to The Australian, Bennett told investigators that the vessel struck an unknown object at 1am during their overnight cruise while his wife was the helm and he was asleep down below. He claims that the vessel began taking on water and he went upstairs to look for Hellman that but couldn’t find her, after which he proceeded to abandon the sinking vessel in a life raft.

According to the FBI, however, it appears that the vessel was deliberately sabotaged. Photos and video from the Coast Guard show that two punctures in the hull appear to have been made from the inside. They also found that two emergency escape hatches below the vessel’s waterline had been opened, allowing water to enter the cabin.

The FBI is asserting that Bennett, an experienced sailor, would never have left the hatches open under normal circumstances, and that he would have been able to keep the vessel afloat until help arrived.

The investigators also claim that Bennett made no attempt to find his wife, opting not to use flares to illuminate the area around the vessel to try and locate her. They assert that he “wanted to ensure his own rescue and survival after murdering his wife and intentionally scuttling his catamaran.

Among Bennett’s possessions in the life raft was $US5,o00 in gold and silver coins, which were later found to be stolen from a vessel on which Bennett worked in 2016. The murder charge comes as Bennett received a 7-year sentence for transporting stolen goods.