Taxi driver jailed for life for 'wicked' murder of mother-of-five former partner

Ben Lacomba, 39, has been sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court to life in prison with a minimum term of 27 years for the murder of mother-of-five Sarah Wellgreen, right. (PA)

A taxi driver has been jailed for life for the “planned and calculated” murder of his ex-partner and mother of his children.

Ben Lacomba, 39, was found guilty of killing Sarah Wellgreen, 46, a mother of five children, three of whom were his.

Ms Wellgreen disappeared without a trace in October 2018 and despite extensive searches, her body has never been found and no forensic evidence was uncovered.

Lacomba's trial 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".

Ben Lacomba was found guilty of killing his ex-partner Ms Wellgreen, 46, who disappeared without a trace in October 2018. (PA)

The couple met online in 2004 but witness testimonies said that their relationship was marked by "tensions and problems".

The pair had split up in 2014 but still lived under the same roof at their home in New Ash Green, Kent, and shared three children together.

At the time of her disappearance Ms Wellgreen was preparing to buy him out of the property and own the home outright.

Ms Wellgreen, a beautician, was described as living a “happy life with much to look forward to” at the time and had secured a new, better-paid job days before she went missing.

Lacomba, who is said to have been “controlling and angry” because of the break-up of the relationship claimed he was asleep in bed on the night of the alleged killing.

Sarah Wellgreen disappeared from the home they shared home in Ash Green, Kent, at the time of her disappearance. (PA)

But the court heard that he switched off a CCTV system in the middle of the night and parked his car in an unusual spot in an attempt to evade detection.

Sentencing, Judge Christopher Kinch QC said: "No-one can know how you killed Sarah. It must be hoped that she did not suffer too much."

He said Lacomba had deliberately set out to deprive the children of their mother, adding: "It's difficult to imagine something more callous or chilling."

He told Lacomba he had carried out “a thoroughly wicked plan, executed entirely for selfish interests and without any thought for the dreadful consequences” for Sarah's children.

“This murder was no crime of passion or momentary outburst of violence. It was, I am sure, a planned and calculated operation that developed as it became clear Sarah Wellgreen's plans were to raise a mortgage and buy out your stake in the property.

“I cannot be sure you planned the murder over many months but your consideration and calculation clearly took some time.

“Above all, I am sure you must have identified a site for the disposal of her body in advance.

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“Your careful and unobserved departure from the house at night, the purposeful drive to an undisclosed location and your equally careful return home in the early hours of the morning are consistent only with a significant degree of planning and forethought.”

On Monday, it took the jury just three-and-a-half hours to reach its verdict.

Speaking outside the courtroom on Monday, Ms Wellgreen’s partner at the time she was murdered said he hopes that Lacomba will reveal where her body is.

Neil James said: "It is a relief for the family and especially for the kids. It is a relief for all of her friends. The right decision has been made and hopefully he will let us know where her body is.

The taxi driver is said to have shown no emotion when he heard the verdict on Monday. (PA)

"Only this morning my daughter was asking where her mummy was.

"I think the police and the barristers have done an amazing job and so it is a big thank you to them.”

DCI Ivan Beasley, of the Kent and Essex serious crime directorate, said: “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.”