Ben Lacomba jailed for life for the murder of Sarah Wellgreen
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A taxi-driver from New Ash Green who murdered his former-partner Sarah Wellgreen and then hid her body has been sentenced to life in prison.
Ben Lacomba stood before Woolwich Crown Court on Friday 8 November 2019 where His Lordship Judge Christopher Kinch told the killer he will serve at least 27 years behind bars before being considered for release.
On Monday, 28 October 2019, just over a year after the mother-of-five’s disappearance, Lacomba was unanimously convicted of Sarah’s murder following a four-week trial.
During the trial the court heard how a missing person investigation was launched on 11 October 2018 when Lacomba, 39, reported her disappearance two days after she was last seen. Searches in and around the home they shared in Bazes Shaw, New Ash Green, took place in the days that followed.
As the enquiry continued detectives became suspicious that something sinister had happened to 46-year-old Sarah and the search was widened with almost 22,000 hours of CCTV footage being seized.
On 16 October Lacomba was arrested on suspicion of Sarah’s murder, questioned and later released on bail.
In the months that followed, extensive investigations by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate unravelled discrepancies in the accounts given by Lacomba about Sarah’s disappearance and his own behaviour.
After reviewing a neighbour’s CCTV footage, detectives found that Sarah and Lacomba’s own home CCTV system had been turned off the night Sarah vanished. Lacomba’s CCTV system fed into a dedicated hard drive and power unit located next to his bed.
They also found Lacomba’s red Vauxhall Zafira, a taxi with distinctive writing on the side, was not parked in its usual place outside the family home the night Sarah went missing. Instead it had been parked away from CCTV cameras belonging to neighbours and was found to leave Bazes Shaw in the middle of the night. Various CCTV cameras in New Ash Green and the wider area showed it headed south towards Stansted before disappearing for two hours.
Comparisons of the vehicle in the days before and after Sarah disappeared showed the car had been clean when he returned from work on 9 October, became dirty during the overnight journey south and it was then cleaned again after Lacomba went out in it the following morning.
Phone records also revealed that despite his initial claim to officers that he woke up to find Sarah missing on the morning of 10 October, he only decided to report her missing the following day when her family and friends sent texts and spoke to him about their concerns.
However, on 14 October when family liaison officers asked Lacomba for his phone to help them with the missing person investigation, he refused after being told what information could be retrieved. He told the officers to leave because he felt tired but after officers left, he drove his red Vauxhall north to Evelyn Walk, Greenhithe and threw his phone into the River Thames.
When he returned home, he asked a relative for a loan saying he had got rid of his mobile phone. The following day on 15 October he visited a shop in Dartford High Street and bought an identical Samsung model to the phone he refused to give officers – the same one he told a relative he had got rid of.
On 16 October, Lacomba requested an urgent hearing at Dartford Family Court where he sought custody of the three children he and Sarah shared. He was arrested by detectives shortly afterwards.
On interview, he refused to answer any questions put to him to either explain Sarah’s disappearance or help find her. He was bailed but later re-arrested and charged with murder on 20 December 2018.
Detective Chief Inspector Ivan Beasley from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: ‘This is a substantial sentence which reflects the calculated and evil actions of a man who thought he could get away with murder. However it did not take long for things to unravel for him as our suspicions grew that he had been responsible for Sarah’s killing even though we had not found Sarah. After a year of incredibly complex investigations and producing a sound case - he is behind bars.
‘Now that justice has been served we can continue our attention to finding Sarah’s body. We have more searches planned and will continue to do everything in our power to find her so her family can finally lay her to rest.
‘Sarah’s friends and family have been so brave and supportive throughout our investigation and I hope the sentence will help them in some small way at least, to cope with what has happened.’
In a statement from Sarah’s family, they said: ‘As a family, we miss Sarah every day. There is no bandage big enough to repair the wound that has been left by her premature death. We will not however allow Ben Lacomba to destroy our lives. Our priority will be to give Sarah’s three youngest children every opportunity to be the best they can be and to have a full and happy life knowing their mother loved them. She will not be there to congratulate them on their achievements or to console them on their disappointments but we will be there every step of the way for them.’
The search for Sarah
The search for Sarah is one of the largest in Kent Police’s history with 1,275 areas searched, totalling over 2,782 miles. At its height, the operation involved around 120 officers a day using police dogs, drones and the marine unit.
Kent Police was supported by other agencies including Kent Search and Rescue and Kent Fire and Rescue Service while members of the local community came out in force in the hope of locating Sarah.