Lewis Bennett, who has been charged by the FBI with murder, was smuggling rare stolen coins worth £29,450 when he was rescued alone off the coast of Cuba last May.
Bennett, 41, of Poole, Dorset, claimed his wife Isabella Hellmann had gone missing but now court papers have revealed what prosecutors say were his motives.
Asking a Florida judge to admit into evidence bugged conversations with loved ones, prosecutor Benjamin Greenberg said former estate agent Ms Hellmann had discussed rows over a mooted move to Australia, the couple’s dire finances and the raising of their daughter.
Mr Greenberg said the conversations made from Ms Hellmann’s home in Delray Beach, Florida, showed she and Bennett were “consistently” rowing, with “potentially one of the arguments ultimately resulting in the murder of Hellmann”.
He said: “Hellmann’s murder would remove the marital strife from the defendant’s life, allow the defendant to live his life as he pleased,” adding it would also “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.”
Prosecutors also say Ms Hellmann, 41, may have discovered that Bennett possessed the gold and silver coins, stolen from his former employer in St Maarten, which “potentially led to an intense argument resulting in Hellmann’s murder”, said Mr Greenberg.
Ms Hellmann’s body has never been found and Bennett, who is serving seven months in jail for transporting the coins, will go on trial for second degree murder in December.
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