Taxi driver on trial for murdering Sarah Wellgreen ‘panicked’ by throwing his two phones into river

Ben Lacomba, 39, said he thought police might believe he was involved with mother-of-five Sarah Wellgreen’s disappearance and panicked

A taxi driver has told a jury that he panicked and made ‘a massive mistake’ by throwing both of his mobile phones into a river after his ex-girlfriend was allegedly murdered.

Ben Lacomba, 39, said he thought police might believe he was involved with mother-of-five Sarah Wellgreen’s disappearance.

So, he dumped the phones into the River Thames at Greenhithe, Kent, on October 14 2018, before officers could download any data from them. 

Today, he told London’s Woolwich Crown Court: ‘It was stupid. I made a mistake, a massive mistake.

‘Now I am not tired and panicky. They could have downloaded everything and I may be not sitting here today.’

Lacomba denies murdering Ms Wellgreen, 46, on October 9, 2018, and claims he was in bed asleep all night before waking at 7am to find her missing.

The beautician has not been seen since disappearing from the home she shared with Lacomba, in New Ash Green, Kent, in October last year.

Despite extensive searches by Kent Police, Ms Wellgreen’s body has not been found.

The prosecution say Lacomba murdered her in a ‘premeditated and calculated act’ and may have been motivated by the potential loss of his property and his children.

He then dumped her body in an unknown location, it is alleged.

There was a flurry of unanswered calls and messages from Ms Wellgreen’s worried family to her phone, and Lacomba reported her missing to police.

Ben Lacomba (pictured) is accused of murdering his ex Sarah Wellgreen after she got a new job

Ben Lacomba is accused of murdering his ex Sarah Wellgreen (pictured) after she got a new job

Ben Lacomba (left, pictured in November 2018) is accused of murdering Ms Wellgreen (right)

Detectives searched for thousands of man hours for Ms Wellgreen's body after she went missing in New Ash Green, Kent, last October - but it has never been found

Detectives searched for thousands of man hours for Ms Wellgreen’s body after she went missing in New Ash Green, Kent, last October – but it has never been found

It led to extensive police searches at Lacomba’s home and a request by them to look at his mobile phones, including the deleted material on it.

Lacomba, who described himself as ‘tired and stressed’ at that time, told the jury that the continued police presence had led to ‘bickering’ and ‘upheaval’ in his home.

He said he wanted to help the police because ‘the priority was to try to find Sarah and if they (the police) felt it was necessary – that was their job’.

Lacomba and Ms Wellgreen, who were no longer a couple, had been living under the same roof since May 2018.

He told the court he panicked when police asked to see the deleted telephone information because he had previously written ‘nasty’ tit-for-tat messages in draft to Ms Wellgreen.

These were unsent but dated back to an ‘acrimonious’ period after they had split as a couple, the court heard.

The prosecution allege that ‘compelling evidence’ points to Lacomba’s guilt, including the switching off of CCTV at his home and deliberately parking out of view of his neighbour’s security cameras.

The jury has also been shown footage of what the prosecution say was his taxi driving along country lanes in the early hours of October 10 to dispose of Sarah’s body.

But Lacomba maintained during cross-examination that he was asleep in bed all night, and denied throwing his phones in the river so police could not discover what he had been up to.

Police during the search for Ms Wellgreen in Kent last October. She has never been found and prosecutors say she was murdered

Police during the search for Ms Wellgreen in Kent last October. She has never been found and prosecutors say she was murdered

He also claimed that an occupant at the house who told police that they had woken to find neither he nor Sarah were in the house had been ‘confused’.

But Miss Morgan said the witness, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had ‘got it spot on’, and that Lacomba had ‘the shock of his life’ when he returned home from getting rid of Sarah’s body to find the occupant downstairs.

Lacomba replied however: ‘That’s not true because I was asleep in my bedroom.’

The trial continues.