Australian sailor 'murdered wife, sank catamaran to inherit her estate'

A man murdered his wife before sinking her body in his catamaran to end his troubled marriage and gain financially from her estate, according to prosecutors in the US.

Lewis Bennett, 41, a former Gold Coast business owner, was sailing with his partner, Isabella Hellmann, to their Florida home in May last year when he contacted authorities with an SOS call to say his wife was unaccounted for after their vessel began to sink, Sky News reported.

Bennett, a British-Australian of Poole, England, was discovered to be smuggling stolen rare coins when he was rescued off the coast of Cuba by a helicopter.

Ms Hellman’s body has never been found and the FBI has since charged Bennett with second degree murder.

Lewis Bennett pictured with his wife, Isabella Hellman. Source: Facebook

Prosecutor Benjamin Greenberg claims one of Bennett’s regular arguments with his wife may have led to her death.

Mr Greenberg asked a judge in Florida to admit into evidence conversations Ms Hellmann, 41, had with others.

She is believed to have discussed her ailing marriage with close ones, revealing the couple repeatedly argued over their finances, raising their young daughter, and a possible move to Australia.

The couple’s vessel which sank off the coast of Cuba on its way to Florida. Source: US Coast Guard

Bennett has requested authorities to register his wife as presumed dead, meaning he would be in line to inherit her savings and property.

“Hellmann’s murder would remove the marital strife from the defendant’s life, allow the defendant to live his life as he pleased, and would enable him to inherit money from Hellmann’s estate, all of which provide strong circumstantial proof that the defendant had a strong motive to murder Hellmann,” Mr Greenberg said.

Prosecutors believe his wife’s potential discovery of the English and Canadian coins he was smuggling, valued at $53,000, may have led to her death.

Bennett will go on trial for the second degree murder charge in December.

He is already serving seven months in prison after being sentenced over the smuggled coins.