FBI probing disappearance of estate agent during sailing trip with UK husband

Updated: 

The FBI is investigating the disappearance of an estate agent who went missing while sailing off the coast of Cuba with her British citizen husband.

Lewis Bennett sent an SOS call saying Isabella Hellman, the 41-year-old mother of their young child, was missing and he was abandoning his 37-foot catamaran.

Mr Bennett, also 41, said his boat Surf Into Summer was taking on water after being struck by an "unknown object" in the Florida Straits and he was later rescued nearby in his lift raft.

Special Agent Michael Leverock confirmed on Monday that Federal Bureau of Investigation officers are investigating but would not comment further.

The US Coast Guard added that the agencies are working together on the "missing person case".

The search for Ms Hellman, of Delray Beach, Florida, was called off on May 18, three days after she was reported missing.

"Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Ms Hellman in this difficult time," said Captain Aldante Vinciguerra, the chief of response for the Miami coastguards.

"Suspending a search is never an easy call to make and was made with deep consideration in this tragic case."

Mr Bennett, a British-Australian dual national, raised the alarm at around 1.30am on May 15 when he was around 30 miles west of the Bahaman island Cay Sal.

His wife, a realtor with Signature Real Estate Companies, had been last seen aboard the boat at around 8pm the previous evening, the coastguard said.

According to reports, they had a nine-month old daughter and had been married for three months.

Her employer at Signature Real Estate Companies, Ben Schachter, said she was "full of happiness and joy" over their newborn child, CNN reported.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "Our staff are offering support and advice to an Australian-British dual national following an incident off the coast of Florida.

"We remain in contact with the Australian Consulate and US authorities."