Published: 15:09, 08 October 2019
| Updated: 15:11, 08 October 2019
The eldest son of missing New Ash Green woman Sarah Wellgreen has recalled the last conversation he had with his mother before she disappeared.
A statement from Lewis Burdett was read out at Woolwich Crown Court in evidence as part of the trial of Sarah’s former partner Ben Lacomba, who is accused of murdering her when she vanished on the night of October 9-10 last year.
In the statement, given as police launched the investigation into her disappearance, he said he had seen his mother when she came to Portsmouth on the weekend before she had driven back to Kent.
He said: “I was aware she was having a job interview with a company called Neil Howard Ltd. The last time I spoke to her was on 2pm Monday afternoon when she phoned me to say she had got the job.”
On Wednesday he was contacted by Neil James, a former partner of Sarah, and had tried to phone his mother.
He added: “I tried to phone but it went straight to answer phone. I tried to message but got no reply. I checked her Facebook page but saw no activity."
After that he tired to call Ben Lacomba, who initially didn’t answer. When they did speak, Ben said he had last seen Sarah on Tuesday night but when he had got up on Wednesday she was gone, and they agreed Lacomba would call police the following day if she hadn’t turned up.
“I know my mother, she would not just leave her children,” his statement continued. “She has never gone off before. She always keeps in touch.”
He explained how he and his brother were applying for a mortgage on Bazes Shaw to help his mother buy Ben Lacomba out of the house.
He also noted that when he asked Lacomba if CCTV at the house had been checked Lacomba had told him he must have turned it off by accident as it was near where he charged his phone.
Earlier in the trial today family liaison officer DC Celia King explained how Lacomba had been “obstructive” and had left her on the doorstep in the rain for ten minutes before eventually letting her in the house, when she visited on October 14.
She explained she had searched Sarah Wellgreen’s bedroom and interviewed Lacomba in the room. At one point Lacomba’s mother arrived, letting herself in the house.
She said: “Mr Lacomba jumped up off the floor where he was sitting and made a comment to myself and DC Godfrey that he thought that was Sarah coming back. He was very nervous and laughed and then said it was his mum.”
When she explained to Lacomba that she wanted to take his phone to download contents at the police station he reluctantly agreed, but noticed he was “frantically scrolling through his phone.”
When Lacomba was asked to give further consent for officers to retrieve deleted data from it, DC King said he became quite animated and said “why would I want you to have deleted data, because I’ve deleted it for a reason.”
Eventually he handed it over and DC King and her colleague walked out to the car, where they had a brief conversation.
“DC Godfrey alerted me that Mr Lacomba was behind me,” she said. “He said he’d changed his mind and he wanted his phone back. He said he needed it for work.
“After a while he got quite animated. He said ‘you said it was voluntary’ and I didn’t have to give it to you so I want it back.”
DC King said Lacomba agreed to bring the phone to Maidstone Police Station the next day but did not turn up.
Read more from the trial:
Earlier in the trial the court heard their was evidence that Lacomba had driven to Greenhithe the night after speaking to DC King and thrown his phone in the river.
The court also heard evidence from other officers who had visited Lacomba’s home in the days after Sarah disappeared.
PC Gemma Pawley, who visited Bazes Shaw on Thursday October 11, had noted Lacomba had been cooperative but had told her: ‘if you’re going to come round again make sure you call. I don’t like it if you come round unexpected.’ I told him this may not always be possible.