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Sarah Wellgreen murder trial: Ben Lacomba's phone call to police played in court after New Ash Green mum's disappearance

The moment Ben Lacomba called police to report his ex partner missing has been played out in court.

Woolwich Crown Court heard how worried friends and relatives had tried repeatedly to call 46-year-old Sarah Wellgreen after she went missing from her home in Bazes Shaw in New Ash Green on the night of October 9 last year.

Among them was her friend Neil James, who Sarah had a text conversation with after she went to bed on the night of October 4.

Sarah had told Mr James how Lacomba - who is charged with her murder - had responded when she had told him she had got a new job earlier that night, texting: "And the fat **** said 'oh that means you won't get benefits'."

Video: CCTV shown in Sarah Wellgreen trial allegedly of Lacomba's car

And she later added about Lacomba: “He’s been very quiet since I got back.”

The next day, after prosecutors suggest 39-year-old Lacomba killed Sarah and disposed of her body, Neil was among those trying to contact Sarah, texting at one point: “Are you alive?”

Friends and family also tried calling Lacomba, who eventually phoned police on October 11.

A recording of that call was played in court and Lacomba can be heard calmly explaining how Sarah had “quite a few phones”, adding “one of them didn’t have a lock on it and I’ve looked through that and I’ve found that she’s sort of like seeing quite a few blokes sort of thing.”

He tells the operator Sarah had a boyfriend called Neil James, but suspected she had been cheating on him.

“Have you any idea where she might be?” asks the operator.

“No I don’t,” replies Lacomba. “That's why I’m phoning you.”

“Is there any reason why she might have gone missing?” asks the operator.

He replied: “Like I said, nothing, well obviously I found out about her sort of seeing quite a few blokes sort of thing.”

He also explained Sarah had a part time job in Portsmouth and an employee at the company had assaulted her the previous weekend, giving details of the address and alleged assault.

He also told police Sarah sometimes stayed with Neil James, and that Mr James had tried to call him,

He added: “She told me quite a few things about him... that’s why I haven’t contacted him back.

The trial later heard Lacomba appeared relaxed and co-operative when police later visited his home, but he followed officers around.

PC Rachel Manley was first to visit Bazes Shaw in October 11 after Lacomba reported her missing.

“He greeted me after I stepped through into the living room - he greeted me and shook my hand,” she recalled.

“He asked me to come through and sit at the kitchen table.

Ben Lacomba's phone call to police was heard in court. Picture: Jim Bennett
Ben Lacomba's phone call to police was heard in court. Picture: Jim Bennett

“I explained I was there to take initial details about the disappearance of Sarah.

"Ben seemed calm. He was talking openly with me. He seemed relaxed.

“He immediately went into the last time he saw Sarah and said the last time he saw her was when she went to bed.

“He explained how he and Sarah had separated but lived together in order to 'co-parent in the same house".

She added: "On numerous occasions Mr Lacomba was looking through mobiles phones - I didn’t know who the phones belonged to.

"He was persistently trying to show me messages that Sarah had been sending to other people.

“I asked him if they had any sort of disagreement prior to when he saw her. He said he had not.”

PC Manley said Lacomba had tried to show her the mobile phones three to four times, adding: “He said he had looked through them that day.

Sarah Jane Wellgreen has disappeared, picture Kent Police (18489505)
Sarah Jane Wellgreen has disappeared, picture Kent Police (18489505)

“He said he was worried and wanted to get any clues as to where she may be.

“He stated on numerous occasions that he believed she was messaging other men."

Lacomba also told her that the CCTV system at the house had been turned off, and he believed Sarah had switched it off because she didn’t want him to know who she was going out with and where she was going.

She said Lacomba had appeared to become agitated when PC Manley looked through the boot of Sarah’s car and found a suitcase, which he stated belonged to him.

Later that day PC Matthew Thomas and PC Callum Watt returned to inspect the home further and seize property.

Lacomba had followed them closely during their search, and again told officers about Sarah’s relationships with other men, and stated he believed she’d switched off the CCTV.

At one point Lacomba asked if he could take £50 from Sarah’s handbag for his child’s birthday but PC Watt declined.

"I said that wasn’t possible as I couldn’t be sure of the arrangement,” he said.

The trial continues.

Read more from the trial:

“She said he put a tracker on her phone, stuff like that.”

“Anything else she told you about?” asks the operator.

“Yeah like he’s just really paranoid about her, like he doesn’t trust her and that.”

He also suggests that a former partner of Mr James had been stalking her, adding: “She’s got quite a complicated life like, and this is a bit messy.”

The trial continues.

To read more of our in depth coverage of all of the major trials coming out of crown and magistrates' courts across the county, click here.

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