The FBI is investigating the mysterious disappearance of a woman from a private boat while on a ‘honeymoon’ cruise with her Australian husband.
Former Gold Coast businessman Lewis Bennett and his new wife, Isabella Hellmann, were on their boat ‘Surf Into Summer’ in the Bahamas, when Isabella disappeared.
Bennett, 40, told authorities that he was below deck when he was jolted awake by what felt like a collision with an unknown object. Bennett said he scrambled on deck and jumped on a lifeboat but his Colombian born wife – who had agreed to take watch and was wearing a life jacket – was nowhere to be seen.
According to the Gold Coast Bulletin, Bennett then contacted a friend on the Gold Coast and the friend, in turn, alerted the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, who passed the message onto the US Coast Guard.
The US coast guards reportedly found Bennett about four hours after he contacted Australia. But in spite of an intensive four-day search of 17,000 sq km, they have been unable to locate Hellmann or the couple's boat, which sunk in more than 40,000 feet of water after the US Coast Guard briefly examined it.
“We haven’t had track of it or seen the boat since a beacon was attached weeks ago,” Coast Guard spokesman Jonathan Lally told the Palm Beach Post this week.
According to Bennett, the couple left Havana at 5.30pm on May 14 and were 100km off the Florida Keys when the collision occurred at around 1am.
The Post reported the FBI and the US Coast Guard have declined to comment on the nature of their investigations, but neighbours have reported investigators wearing blue latex gloves examining Bennett's car, while the front door of the couple's home was sealed with yellow FBI evidence tape.
Bennett, who was born in the UK, holds a dual British and Australian citizenship and was a director of Eight Developments Proprietary Limited while living in Mt Nathan in the Gold Coast Hinterland.
Lesmar Muller, a friend of Hellmann, told the Post there was friction between the couple as Bennett wanted to return to Australia with his new family, but Hellmann wanted to stay in the US.
“She told me: ‘I’m not going to Australia’,” she said.
Now friends and family are fearful Bennett will bring his daughter to Australia, while his wife is missing.
“I begged him to please understand that the family lost Isabella and the only piece of Isabella left was [her child] and he needs to understand he just can’t leave and take her,” Hellmann's best friend, Sarah Cortes, told the Post.
“He said he understands but he’s got his life in Australia.”
Bennett told the Daily Mail he could understand why the authorities were investigating what happened, but he has nothing to hide.
“I have got nothing to hide ... I am not holding out much hope of seeing her so I have to come to terms with that. This is absolutely devastating for me.
“She is my soulmate. I thought we were going to be together forever. We were planning a great life together and now I am alone without her. I loved her very much.”
Although Bennett has not be seen for days, authorities do not believe he has traveled to Australia.
Hellmann's friends and family have created a Facebook page in the hope of finding Isabella and to let people know that they have been separated from baby Emelia.
“Isabella needs us! Share her photo and spread the voice. If we work together is easier to find her. Together for Isabella #FindIsabella,” the page reads.
The couple had been together since 2014.