Aussie ‘honeymoon killer’ makes deal
AN AUSTRALIAN man accused of killing his wife during their Caribbean honeymoon has reportedly made a deal with authorities.
According to US media, Lewis Bennett has filed a new affidavit admitting he killed his wife Isabella Hellman in May 2017 as the couple made their way through the waters of the Caribbean on their catamaran.
The new documents were filed through the Miami courts as part of a plea deal, according to reports. Mrs Hellman's body has never been recovered.
Bennett, a dual Australian-British citizen, initially claimed he didn't know what happened to his wife, after he reported a collision and their boat sank in the Caribbean waters.
He was found with a bag of stolen coins and jailed for theft from his former employer.
The initial charges against Bennett by the US Attorney's Office were second-degree murder, but these have now been downgraded to manslaughter. That is typical with a plea deal.
Prosecutors declined to comment and Bennett's public defender, Vanessa Chen, did not immediately return a call and email seeking comment.
Mrs Hellmann's sister also declined to give an immediate comment.
Mrs Hellman was a real estate agent and Bennett was an engineer.
They took their catamaran, Surf Into Summer, to the Caribbean as a belated honeymoon three months after their wedding, leaving their infant daughter with family.
As they were returning home from the Bahamas towards Florida, Bennett sent an emergency signal, saying the vessel had been in a collision.
He claimed to have then retired to bed, leaving his wife on the deck of the catamaran.
When he woke he could not find her, and emergency crews later found Bennett on a life raft in the water as the boat sank.
It was alleged by the prosecution that the couple had been arguing about financial woes, a potential move to Australia and issues with their young daughter.
The prosecution alleged the death of his wife would enable him to inherit money from her estate and end other marital woes.
Bennett requested a letter of "presumed death" so he could take control of his deceased wife's possessions. These items included a condominium and other items, but the court rejected it.
An FBI investigation concluded damage to the boat that resulted in it sinking had been caused internally.
When Bennett was rescued, emergency personnel discovered more than AU$138,946 (US$100,000) worth of stolen gold and silver coins on his person.
These had come from his previous employment on a yacht.
It was this discovery that first led to Bennett's arrest, for which he pleaded guilty and served a seven-month sentence. He was then charged with his wife's murder.
If sentenced, he faces a possible eight years behind bars and then deportation from the US to either Australian or the United Kingdom.
The Palm Beach Post first reported the filing of the new information.