Ex-lover guilty of murdering missing Sarah Wellgreen
PUBLISHED: 11:54 28 October 2019 | UPDATED: 13:40 28 October 2019
The former lover of missing mother-of-five Sarah Wellgreen has been found guilty of her murder, more than a year after she was last seen alive.
The 46-year-old beautician had been living a "happy life with much to look forward to" but disappeared without a trace in October 2018.
Despite extensive searches across a huge area, her body has never been found.
On Monday, October 28, her ex-partner Ben Lacomba was convicted of murder despite his attempts to evade justice.
The pair had split up in 2014 but still lived together at their home in New Ash Green, at the time of her disappearance.
The 39-year-old, who stood in the dock wearing a dark suit, shirt and dark blue tie, showed no emotion as the guilty verdict was read out.
It took the jury three-and-a-half hours to reach its verdict.
Lacomba's trial at Woolwich Crown Court heard that he killed Ms Wellgreen in a "calculated manner designed to avoid detection, to leave no trace" and to "remove her from his life forever".
The couple met online in 2004 but by the time of her disappearance their relationship was marked by "tensions and problems", the court heard.
They had split up but were still living under the same roof and it "appears that potential loss of that family home, that property, and his children motivated his actions", prosecutor Alison Morgan QC told the jury.
Taxi driver Lacomba said he was asleep in bed on the night of the alleged killing.
The prosecution alleged that Lacomba switched off a CCTV system in the middle of the night and parked his car in an unusual spot in order to evade detection.
Giving evidence during the trial, Lacomba said it was "unusual and weird" when he woke up one morning to find she was not at home.
Speaking after the verdict, Det Ch Insp Ivan Beasley, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "Sarah had every reason to live - she had secured a new, better-paid job days before her disappearance, was looking forward to one of her children's birthdays and was getting into position to buy the family home outright.
"While we are yet to locate Sarah's body, it is clear to us that Sarah is no longer alive due to the inactivity of her bank and phone accounts, no contact with friends or family and the fact she left the home without any of her personal items or shown any plans to leave. She didn't even take her car.
"But when you look at Ben Lacomba, knowing what we know about Sarah and you begin to prove his account of what happened is untruthful, that he had reason to kill Sarah to avoid being left behind by her, it leaves us with little choice but to conclude he killed her. No other person came to that house that night, Sarah didn't walk out of there by herself and Lacomba had clearly researched how to leave the area without being seen - or so he thought.
"I'm pleased the jury came to the same conclusion.
"Lacomba refuses to tell us where Sarah is which makes it difficult to find her and provide her family with some of the closure they so desperately need. Enquiries to find her will continue and so will the support we provide to Sarah's family and close friends."
"I would like to pay tribute to Sarah's family and friends who have been so brave in their help and support of our investigation. I also want to thank those in the community who have helped, especially those spending so much time and effort in the search for Sarah."
The search for Sarah is one of the largest in Kent Police 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.
Lacomba will be sentenced on November 8.
Timeline of events leading up to and immediately after the disappearance of Sarah Wellgreen.
- 2004: Ben Lacomba and Sarah Wellgreen meet online. They enter into a long-distance relationship before she moves to live with him in Majorca, taking her two children from her previous relationship with her. Whilst in Spain, they have their first child together.
- 2006: Lacomba and Ms Wellgreen move back to the UK due to financial issues.
- 2012: Lacomba and Ms Wellgreen have two more children.
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- 2014: The couple separate but remain living together in the family home.
- July 12-13 2018: Ms Wellgreen contacts a mortgage broker about buying Lacomba out of their house.
- August 7: Ms Wellgreen contacts the mortgage broker again confirming that she wishes for them to act for her.
- August 15: The mortgage broker sends Ms Wellgreen a mortgage quotation. She confirms that she wishes to proceed.
- September 13: Ms Wellgreen is informed that the mortgage has been approved.
- September 21: Ms Wellgreen applies for a job as a business development manager.
- October 8: Ms Wellgreen is offered the job, which comes with a pay rise and company car. She accepts the next day.
- October 9:
9.30am: Lacomba's first taxi job of the day
4.50pm: Lacomba drops off his last customer of the day in Sevenoaks and then books off work.
- October 10:
8.30am: Lacomba arrives at his children's school and speaks to staff about a school trip his children are booked on.
10.34am: Lacomba's first taxi job of the day.
1.34pm: Lacomba drops off his last customer of the day and books off work.
- October 11: 9.55am: Lacomba telephones the police to report Ms Wellgreen missing.
- Police search the family home.
- October 12: Police search family home again.
- October 14: Police visit the home a further time.
- October 16: Police seize Lacomba's Vauxhall car.
c.12.20pm: Lacomba attends Dartford County Court seeking a residence order for his children, saying that Ms Wellgreen was officially missing.
1.55pm: Lacomba is arrested for the first time in Dartford.
- October 19:
11.50am: Lacomba is released on police bail.
Police search the family home a further time. Two shovels are seized from the shed. They also seize a silver metal box containing various personal documents, including Sarah Wellgreen's passport, her birth certificate, marriage certificate and a Spanish identity card.
- November 2: Police conduct a further search of the family home.
- December 20: 6.45am: Lacomba is arrested for a second time.
7.40pm: Lacomba is charged with the murder of Sarah Wellgreen.
- December 21: Police conduct another search of the family home and seize a further shovel from the shed.
- October 28 2019: Lacomba is convicted of murder at Woolwich Crown Court.