Documentary looks back on the murder of Sarah WellgreenMay 27, 2021
Eight bizarre blunders that caught a killer: Taxi driver, 48, who murdered his ex-partner arranged a children’s party while ‘searching for her’, hastily cleaned his car and tried to rapidly organise a custody hearing
- Ben Lacomba was jailed for 27 years in 2019 for the murder of Sarah Wellgreen
- Estranged couple had three children and lived together near Sevenoaks, Kent
- Sarah, mother-of-five, went missing on 9 October 2018, prompting search party
- 5Star documentary My Lover My Killer looks back on Sarah’s sad case
A taxi driver who murdered his ex-partner after a bitter custody battle over their three children and has never disclosed where her body is made eight crucial mistakes that led to his arrest, a documentary has revealed.
Sarah Wellgreen, 48, a mother-of-five, went missing on 9 October 2018, from the home she had shared in Kent with her ex-partner Ben Lacomba, a taxi driver.
A police investigation concluded that Lacomba killed Sarah before hiding her body in an unknown location, and he was convicted and sentenced to 27 years in jail at October 28, 2019 at Woolwich Crown Court.
5Star documentary My Lover, My Killer, which aired last night, revisited Sarah’s case with police officers, loved ones and neighbours all recalling the search for the beautician.
It listed the many ‘bizarre’ actions Ben Lacomba took in the days following Sarah’s disappearance which baffled his neighbours and raised police officers’ suspicions, leading to his arrest.
Among his strange actions was peeling off from the search for Sarah to organise a children’s event at the local village hall, and trying to rush a custody hearing in the days after she disappeared.
Sarah Wellgreen was murdered by her ex-partner Ben Lacomba in October 2018. A 5Star documentary looked back at the case, with testimonies from the police officers who led the search for the mother-of-five, her family and neighbours
1. No concern for Sarah
DCI Ivan Beasley, who led the investigation into Sarah’s disappearance, said on the documentary he knew something was wrong from the get go, because all of Sarah’s belongings were in the house, except for her phone.
A search party around the village where Sarah and Lacomba lived was launched as part of the investigation, but police soon grew suspicious of the father-of-three.
Lacomba had called the police to report Sarah missing, but he was reluctant to speak to the officers DCI Beasly sent to his house.
‘Ben didn’t seem to be that concerned. The way he was presenting to us was described to me by my officers, as quite odd,’ he said.
Ben Lacomba was convicted of murdering his ex partner Sarah Wellgreen and sentenced to 27 years in jail in October 2019
‘He didn’t really want to engage with us, he didn’t really want us at the house, which, for somebody who had reported Sarah missing, he didn’t seem to be acting in that way,’ he added.
‘We learned later that it was Sarah’s family that had put pressure on Ben to report her missing.’
During this first point of contact with Lacomba, police searched the home and found Sarah’s car, and her handbag, her purse, cash and cards were all there also.
2. Threw his phone away
As the investigation progressed, police grew more suspicious of Lacomba when he refused to cooperate with them.
‘Usually we got a lot of cooperation from people, especially when there are concerns for a loved one,’ DCI Beasley said.
‘But actually, Ben was more interested in the information we could retrieve from his phone and refused to give us his phone,’ he recounted.
‘He told us that he’d see us the next day, that he’d come to the station and would hand us his phone then, but needed to do some things on his phone first,’ he added.
Police later found out that after speaking to police, Lacomba drove to the next village and threw his phone in the river Thames, before buying a set identical to the one before and putting his old SIM card in.
The father-of-three later claimed he had ‘written but not sent’ messages where he expressed his frustrations about Sarah and their custody battle over their children, and said it wouldn’t have looked good for him in his effort to gain sole custody.
3. The broken CCTV
The couple shared a house after Sarah decided to move back in with Lacomba in 2018 to be with her young children, despite her family pleading with her not to.
Sarah’s older sons, Jake and Lewis, both said in the documentary they disagreed with her decision to move back to Kent, but knew she was doing it for the children.
Police grew suspicious of Lacomba when he refused to hand his phone over to police to help with the search, and to cooperate in any other way. After his first arrest in October 2018, he refused to talk during any of his police interviews, pictured
Lacomba had a room in the converted attic of the property, while Sarah slept on the second floor.
The father-of-three had rigged the whole house with CCTV he controlled from his room.
Author and criminal barrister Tony Kent reflected on Lacomba’s set up, saying the time the estranged couple spent in the same house was not a ‘happy time or a healthy time.’
‘He has CCTV fitted all around the house but why does he need to know what is going on in every room of the house?’ he said.
‘Why does he need to have this omniscient, overlord looking down approach to his domestic life?’
Sarah with her son Lewis Burdett before her disappearance. Her twon sons, Lewis and Jack, travelled to Kent after she was reported missing and suspected her ex-partner because of his suspicious behaviour
‘When you look at that, combined with his repeated failures, you think it’s a ticking time bomb,’ Kent added.
DCI Beasly said: ‘It was quite an elaborate set up, he had cameras at the side, at the front and at the back of his house, all controlled by an assistant which was kept in his bedroom, which was in the converted attic part of the house.
‘She knows that she’s being watched, she knows her every reaction is being recorded. She’s well aware because it’s impossible not to be that there’s CCTV all around this house,’ Tony Kent continued
But when police came looking for Sarah following her disappearance, Lacomba claimed the CCTV system had not been working for a year.
‘His CCTV system was corrupted, there was nothing on his footage that we could find to help us find Sarah,’ DCI Beasley said.
4. Lies caught on neighbour’s CCTV
While Lacomba claimed his CCTV had not been working for a year, CCTV footage from a neighbour’s camera also found that he had been lying.
The footage captured that Lacomba’s cameras were flickering, showing they were active, as late as 11:45pm on October 9, but were turned off.
‘The CCTV system itself was located in Ben’s room, so who else could have turned it off?’ DCI Beasly asked.
While Lacomba’s CCTV system was no help, police had more luck turning to neighbours to see if they could spot any recorded suspicious activity.
Through neighbourings camera, police found that Lacomba always parked his car in the spot on his drive, except for the day Sarah was last seen.
Police searching the home Ben Lacomba and Sarah Wellgreen shared with their three children in Kent
Instead of his usual spot the father-of-three decided to park at the back of the house, in a place that was not covered by his neighbour’s CCTV, a fact he was aware of.
Neighbour CCTV also helped police pin down the last time Sarah was seen alive.
‘We know from that CCTV that Sarah came home just before 8pm on 9 October ad went in her home address,’ DCI Beasley said.
‘That’s the last time that anyone saw Sarah, apart from her children and Ben and at that stage we could only go on what Ben was telling us,’ he added.
And the neighbours’ footage led to another breakthrough.
‘We had a real breakthrough when we found that just after 2am that night, Ben’s car was on the move and we captured it on a number of cameras of private addresses,’ DCI Beasley said.
‘So we knew Ben had gone out and he didn’t return until half past four in the morning,’ he added.
‘So Ben Lacomba had told us he had been in bed all night and that when he woke up in the morning, Sarah was missing. But we’ve now found his car on the move and it had been away from the home address for over two hours.’
5. The muddy car
Following the CCTV breakthrough, police also found that Lacomba’s car, which was always pristine, was full of mud on the morning of 10 October.
‘The following morning after Sarah had disappeared, his car had mud all around his wheels, and all over the sides, both sides, of his car,’ DCI Beasley said.
‘So that car had been out at night and had been out of the road, so where had that car been?
Lacomba’s car, pictured, was captured by CCTV with muddy wheels and mud smeared on its side the morning after Sarah’s disappearance, but the father-of-three swiftly went to have it washed
‘Within two hours of us seeing that car the following morning, he’d got the car cleaned again and it was spotlessly clean as per usual.’
By that point, DCI Beasley said he felt he had mounting evidence Lacomba was responsible for Sarah’s disappearance, but the force was frustrated with the fact they couldn’t located Sarah’s body still.
6. The police interview
Early on in the investigation, Lacomba was arrested by police on suspicion of Sarah’s murder, and he was interviewed.
‘In custody, we interviewed him a number of times, we had seven hours worth of interview,’ DCI Beasley said.
‘Throughout all interviews he remained silent, he refused to answer any questions.’
‘And for somebody that was innocent, somebody that had nothing to do with Sarah’s disappearance, somebody that had phoned us with concern that she’d gone missing, for him not to help us was really strange.
Lacomba, pictured, continued with his daily life while the village and the police all looked for Sarah
‘And it was in very early stages. We were a week after Sarah had gone missing, there was still a lot of investigations we needed to do.
‘I had strong suspicions that Ben Lacomba had was responsible, but at that stage, Ben Lacomba was released on bail.’
For Tony Kent, Ben Lacomba was counting on the fact Sarah’s body had not been found to prove his innocence.
‘You can only assume Ben is relying on the lack of a body being here,’ he said, ‘to guarantee that he doesn’t get arrested or charged.
Sarah’s son Lewis Burdett said: ‘The first time he was arrested told us all what we were all thinking. Then he was released, we weren’t too sure why.’
7. Not letting Sarah’s sons visit their step-siblings.
Sarah had two sons from a previous relationship, Jack and Lewis Burdett. The two brothers raised the alarm when she failed to answer their calls, and they travelled from Hampshire to Kent when she was reported missing.
‘A couple of days after she went missing, we wanted to see the children and we were blocked from it,’ Lewis said.
‘And I always thought that was a bit strange. Then I found out he had taken the children to his mother’s sister’s house and that we were not allowed to see them. So it’s from that point that my suspicions grew a lot more,’ Jack said.
‘You can tell that he’s obviously hiding something, it only points you to one answer,’ Jack added.
Last sighting of Sarah driving home on October 9. The last people to see her were her children and Lacomba
Search parties combed through every field and streams around the village where Sarah was reported missing
Search dogs were called in to help with the police investigations, but Sarah’s body remains hidden to this day
Sarah Wellgreen’s disappearance and the murder investigation
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.
2006: Lacomba and Ms Wellgreen move back to the UK due to financial issues.
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 later 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.
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.
8. Organising a kids’ event while village is out searching for Sarah, as well as a custody hearing
Sharon Brine was a volunteer who took part in field searches for Sarah, and she said the village found Lacomba’s behaviour ‘bizarre.’
‘We were very baffled with Ben when during day three or four of our searching, he went into the village office to book the village hall and we thought it was completely bizarre,’ she said.
‘There’s half the village looking for the mother of his children, and he’s trying to arrange a kids’ game in the village,’ she added.
‘We did realise that we were dealing with somebody who didn’t think like the rest of us did.
‘So we applied that to our searches: “What do we think he thinks? What do we think his thought pattern is?”,’ she added.
Meanwhile DCI Beasley also found it suspicious that Lacomba tried to organise a court hearing regarding custody of his children soon after reporting Sarah missing.
‘Within a few days of her disappearance, Ben had gone to the family court and was trying to have an urgent meeting so he could have primary custody of the children.
Now I wonder what the urgency was, why did he need to do that so quickly? He knew Sarah would never be coming home,’ he said.
What happened next?
Thanks to the CCTV footage, police gathered enough evidence to arrest Ben Lacomba on December 20 2018 and charged with Sarah’s murder.
Police had to prove that the absence of Sarah’s body meant she was dead, by looking at her financial and digital footprint.
They had to convince the jury that there was enough evidence to prove that Sarah could possibly be alive.
Lacomba was found guilty and given a 27-year sentence on October 28, 2019 at Woolwich Crown Court.
But Sarah’s family and loved ones are yet to find peace, because Lacomba has never revealed the location of her remains.
‘There’s still that missing piece, and it will always be like that, because there’ll always be that missing piece because of what he has done,’ Lewis said.
‘I believe he’s withholding that because that’s the only sort of power that he has left. As soon as he tells us that, that’s him admitting doing it, which he has never done. But all the evidence pointed towards him.’
‘It’d be a lot easier if he was to say where she was but I believe he’ll keep on denying it so he has a hope of having a relationship with his children,’ Jack added.
Jack, who stayed in Kent since Sarah’s murder, thanked the people who had organised search parties for her mother.
‘The involvement in searches, I feel as though if I wasn’t involved, I wouldn’t be doing anything else that would be useful, the whole reason I came back to Kent was to find her, I’ve been here ever since,’ he said.
‘There’s lots more of work to do but they are a great support network, without them I don’t think I’d be as capable and as strong as I am today to carry on with what we do.’
The location of Sarah’s remains is still unknown.
My Lover, My Killer airs on Tuesdays on 5Star at 10pm and is available on My5.
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