Published: 17:05, 09 October 2019
| Updated: 17:06, 09 October 2019
A murder suspect's taxi looked "like a brand new car" the day after he is alleged to have killed his former partner and disposed of her body.
A year to the day after 46-year-old Sarah Wellgreen was last seen at her home in Bazes Shaw, New Ash Green, Woolwich Crown Court heard evidence from friends who said Sarah would never have abandoned her children and was looking forward to the future.
And the jury heard evidence from her former neighbour Kelly Ambler, who said she noticed how clean a taxi belonging to 39-year-old Ben Lacomba - who also lived with Sarah at 22 Bazes Shaw - was on October 10, the day after Sarah disappeared.
While Lacomba says he stayed at home the night Sarah disappeared, prosecutors say there’s evidence his red Vauxhall Zafira left New Ash Green in the early hours of October 10, disappearing down country lanes. CCTV evidence shows the car was clean on October 9 and dirty on the morning of October 10, but by the time Ms Ambler saw it later that day it was “very clean”.
“It was like a brand new car,” she added.
Asked if she had ever seen the taxi in that condition before, Mrs Amber added: “never before. Not that clean. Never.”
The prosecution also say Lacomba, who denies murder, parked his taxi away from its usual space on the night Sarah disappeared, in order to evade detection by CCTV. Ms Amber, speaking behind a screen to shield her from the defendant, said that Lacomba parked his car “nine times out of ten” in the space next to his house, adding: “he usually parks next to his house under his CCTV.”
Earlier this morning evidence was heard from a friend of Sarah’s, Maria Santos-Borges, who had spoke to Sarah on October 9, when Sarah visited her home, also in New Ash Green.
She said: “When Sarah came to my home she was very happy and optimistic. She told me about her successful job interview she had on October 8, for a job with a salary of £45,000, a company car and a mobile phone.
“She also told me she had been approved for a mortgage to buy Ben out of his half of the house. She told me her plans for Christmas. She was going to spend Christmas with me and the children in Majorca. I already had flight tickets and Sarah told me she was going to buy tickets on Thursday.”
Sarah was looking forward to her son’s birthday and they were going to go to McDonald’s together.
“She was a very dedicated mother to her children,” she added. “She never told me she wanted to abandon her children, move away or take her own life.
“Sarah told me she was very happy to have found a job with a fixed salary so she could look after her children.
“She told me about her plans to buy the house and decorate it. She was looking forward to decorating the house once she had bought Ben out.”
That was the last time she saw her friend.
She explained how her son Daniel often got a lift with Lacomba - but when he went to Bazes Shaw on the morning of Wednesday October 10, Lacomba was not there, and so returned home.
Daniel, 18, also gave evidence and explained his phone had not been working that day so he had walked to Bazes Shaw expecting his usual lift but had been told by Lacomba’s mother Marilyn that Lacomba had to leave earlier, and that he had tried to call Daniel to explain. There was no sign of Sarah.
Read more from the trial:
The next day Lacomba had given him a lift as usual but did not mention Sarah except to say that she was not helping him financially, which meant he wouldn’t be able to give Daniel a lift any more.
Evidence was shown from another witness, who cannot be named, who spoke in a police interview in October 2018. They explained they had seen a gold and silver ring that Sarah usually took off, left in the bathroom at 22 Bazes Shaw after she disappeared.
“She takes that ring off when she doing her massages”, they said. “She wore it practically all the time. She definitely takes it off when she goes in the bathroom. She dries her fingers and then puts it back on.”
Asked where the ring is at that time, they added: “I’ve seen it in the bathroom.”
The trial continues and is expected to finish in early November.