September 23, 2021

Sarah Wellgreen murder jury hears accused’s 999 call


Sarah Wellgreen’s ex told police she was ‘seeing quite a few blokes’ when he reported her missing after allegedly killing her, a court heard. 

Ben Lacomba contacted Kent Police more than 24 hours after the 46-year-old beautician had disappeared from the home they shared in New Ash Green, Kent, in October last year.

In two calls on October 11, the 39-year-old spoke calmly as he described how he had woken the previous morning and saw Ms Wellgreen was missing.

Her phones and purse were still at the house and her Hyundai car was parked outside, the jury were told. 

Woolwich Crown Court heard the initial 999 call and then subsequent ‘high priority’ call in which Lacomba claimed his ex had a ‘complicated and messy’ lifestyle.

Ben Lacomba (right) is accused of murdering his ex Sarah Wellgreen (left) in October last year

He said she had up to seven phones, and claimed she had been stalked and assaulted at work.

He also told the operator that her on-off partner at the time Neil James was ‘paranoid’ and on one occasion had put a tracker on Sarah’s phone. 

At the start of his call on the morning of October 11 Lacomba, who denies murder, told the operator: ‘She hasn’t gone missing before but her, erm, she’s got a bit of a weird life let’s put it that way.’

He described how they shared the house for the sake of their children but that Sarah was ‘sort of like seeing a few blokes’ other than Mr James, adding ‘and so it looks like she’s cheating on him’.

Lacomba described how Sarah split her time between living in the family home, at Mr James’s home in Farnham, Surrey, and in Portsmouth where she worked for Puresun beauty salon.

He said she had told him that Mr James, who himself had children from previous relationships, ‘put a tracker on her phone’.

The court heard Lacomba claimed Ms Wellgreen new boyfriend Neil James (pictured) was ‘paranoid’ when he first reported her missing

‘He’s really paranoid about her, like where she, like he doesn’t trust her and that…he’s always like well just like accusing her of stuff like,’ added Lacomba.

‘She said both his relationships with the kids’ mums is poor, erm, like they both cheated on him.’

Lacomba also claimed one of Mr James’s former partners was also stalking Sarah, sending her photos of her car when she was staying at his house.  

The operator also asked: ‘Is there a reason that she may have gone missing? Anything going on that might be upsetting or any reason that you know of that she might go missing at all?’

Lacomba replied: ‘Like I said like, I, I, nothing, well obviously I, I, I find out about like her sort of seeing quite a few blokes sort of thing, erm…’

He then spoke of how Sarah had been slapped and scratched by a work colleague, and then pinned to a wall the same colleague’s boyfriend.

Lacomba said this incident had occurred just four days before he had gone missing and been reported to police.

The court also heard of the fruitless attempts made by Mr James and several members of Sarah’s family, including her mother Ann Reid and her 22-year-old son to contact her throughout October 10.

Her phone was going to voicemail and there was no activity on WhatsApp or her Facebook account.

At one stage Mr James sent a message to his girlfriend asking ‘Are you alive?’.

He and her son also contacted Lacomba in their desperate bid to track Sarah down and said they would be contacting police to search for her.

Prosecutors say the movements of a taxi they believe is Lacomba’s after Ms Wellgreen went missing show he was her killer, despite her body having never been found

Lacomba denies murder, claiming he went to bed on October 9 and woke to find Sarah missing at 7am the next day.

However, the prosecution allege he murdered her and then disposed of her body ‘in a calculated manner, designed to avoid detection’.

It is said he was motivated by the potential loss of the home they shared and having only limited access to their children as a result.

At the time she disappeared Sarah had landed a new job with a better salary and was in the process of buying him out of the property.

Earlier the court heard how, having gone to bed shortly after returning home at 8pm on October 9, she sent numerous messages to Mr James and two other male friends, Anthony Garnham and Joe Eleini.

In one message to Mr James she spoke of how ‘a huge weight’ had been lifted from her after securing her new job.

The footage filmed at several houses and farm buildings near the beautician’s home in Kent

Referring to Lacomba, she told Mr James: ‘The fat t**t [Lacomba] said ”Oh that means you won’t get benefits for the kids’ so he asked to claim them. WTF.’

Asked by Mr James why she went to bed so early she replied: ‘I don’t like to sit downstairs with Ben so I go to bed.’

In the same conversation she added: ‘I told him that I know he claims working tax credits and they have given him a lump sum. He’s been very quiet since I got back…the truth hurts.’

In a further message to Mr Eleini they arranged to meet the following Tuesday for a ‘play date’.

She then added in one of her very final messages sent at about 10pm: ‘There is always something to look forward to you just need to open your eyes a bit more and dream X’.

Lacomba told police investigating Miss Wellgreen’s disappearance that she switched off the CCTV at their home on the night she vanished so he ‘wouldn’t know who she was going out with or where’.

He also claimed that when his former partner moved back into the house with him in May last year, she wanted them to ‘get back together’. He said he knew she would ‘absolutely not’ have left her children.

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

PC Rachel Manley, the first officer to visit Lacomba after he reported Miss Wellgreen missing, said he was ‘calm and relaxed’ when she spoke to him at his home.

However he also ‘repeatedly’ tried to show her messages on his ex-partner’s phone.

The police officer said he was ‘persistently’ trying to show her texts that Miss Wellgreen had been sending other men, adding: ‘He said on numerous occasions that he believed she was messaging other men.’

The officer left the property about 90 minutes later and told Lacomba other officers might carry out a more detailed search, but found it ‘strange’ that he spoke of ‘going back to work’.

She explained: We had established Sarah didn’t have keys and didn’t have any way of contacting him or getting back inside if she returned. But he was adamant he was going back to work.’

The trial continues. 

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