Sunday 22 October 2017

Dad accused of cruise liner murder of his wife is denied bail

MYSTERY AT SEA: IT consultant Daniel Belling and his wife Li Yinglei, who vanished during a family cruise in the Med on board the MSC Magnifica Picture: Kyran O'Brien
MYSTERY AT SEA: IT consultant Daniel Belling and his wife Li Yinglei, who vanished during a family cruise in the Med on board the MSC Magnifica Picture: Kyran O'Brien

Ian Begley and Ryan Nugent

The Dublin-based man accused of murdering his wife after she disappeared from a luxury cruise has been denied bail.

An Italian judge investigating the circumstances of the disappearance has ruled that Daniel Belling (45) must remain in custody after attempts were made for him to be released on bail.

Mr Belling was arrested by police in Rome on suspicion of murdering Li Yinglei while they were on a Mediterranean cruise with their two children last month.

Earlier this month, the accused's lawyer Luigi Conti told the Herald his client was applying to be released.

"We propose that he is moved to another apartment in Italy and he can wear an electronic bracelet," he said.

However, Mr Belling must remain in Rome's Regina Coeli prison. His two sons are now living with his family in Germany.

Mr Conti said his client insists he had nothing to do with his wife's disappearance and maintains that she has fled to China or returned to Dublin.

Ms Yinglei's mother You Xiang Zhen told an Italian TV crime show that her daughter fought frequently with Mr Belling.

However, she told Chi L'Ha Visto that she does not believe Mr Belling had anything to do with her disappearance.

"I have a very good relationship with Daniel. He is a very good person. I don't think he could have hurt my daughter," she told the show.

Ms Zhen also said she does not believe her daughter was depressed and took her own life as she would "never have left her children".

The TV show reported that the couple's cabin was located on the 11th deck of the ship.

It said it was 120 metres away from a terrace facing the sea where, under the cover of darkness and the noise of the engines, an object could be thrown overboard without attracting attention.

Police are examining the theory that she was murdered, placed inside a suitcase and thrown overboard.

Mr Belling's lawyer rubbished the show and the theory.

Mr Belling, who is from Germany, was arrested at an Italian airport as he was about to board a plane home to Ireland after his wife had disappeared.

The couple, who lived in Clare Hall, Dublin, had set off on an 11-day cruise with their two children aboard the MSC Magnifica.

The ship set sail from the Italian port of Civitavecchia on February 9 and continued on to Genoa, Malta, Greece and Cyprus.

Crew members noticed Ms Yinglei was missing when they did a head count at the end of the cruise.

Yelled

They alerted police, who arrested Mr Belling at Ciampino Airport in Rome as he was about to board the Ryanair flight with his children.

Ms Yinglei was registered on the Magnifica's passenger record on February 10, following the stop-over at Genoa.

A souvenir shop owner later told reporters she remembered the couple and their children in her store that morning, when Mr Belling was "agitated" and "yelled" at his wife about her shoes.

"He said, 'Put these on instead of your sandals and shut up'," the shop owner said, adding that he handed his wife a pair of gym shoes.

However, according to local reports, Mr Belling told a magistrate during a prison court hearing last Friday that the family remained together until the ship reached Katakolon in Greece.

Mr Belling reportedly told the judge they had quarrelled the night before and she wanted to "quit the trip".

Herald

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