A British man murdered his wife and sank their catamaran so he could end their failing marriage and inherit her estate, US prosecutors say.
Lewis Bennett, of Poole, Dorset, had been sailing with Isabella Hellmann towards their Florida home in May last year when he made an SOS call to say she was missing and their 37ft vessel was sinking.
The FBI has charged Bennett, 41, with second degree murder and for the first time prosecutors have revealed details of what they believe to be his motive.
Ms Hellmann’s body has never been found but if she is presumed dead, Bennett would inherit her money and her apartment in Delray Beach, Florida.
This week, prosecutor Benjamin Greenberg said that the couple were “consistently” arguing “with potentially one of the arguments ultimately resulting in the murder of Hellmann”.
Mr Greenberg asked a judge in Florida to admit into evidence conversations Ms Hellmann, 41, had with others, during which she is said to have argued about their finances, raising their daughter, and a possible move to Australia.
He added: “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.”
Bennett had been smuggling rare English and Canadian coins stolen from his former employer two years earlier when he was picked up from the stricken catamaran by rescuers off the Cuban coast.
He was alone and on a life raft.
Prosecutors say Ms Hellmann, who had a daughter with Bennett, may have found out about the coins, possibly leading to an “intense argument” resulting in her death, Mr Greenberg wrote in the court documents.
Bennett, who is British-Australian, is already serving a seven-month jail term for transporting the coins, worth £29,450.
He will go on trial for the second degree murder charge in December.