Thursday 20 July 2017

Man returning home to Ireland now on murder charge after wife vanished during luxury cruise

Daniel Belling and Xing Lei Li leave court in Dublin in 2011. Photo: Kyran O’Brien
Daniel Belling and Xing Lei Li leave court in Dublin in 2011. Photo: Kyran O’Brien

Ryan Nugent and Amy Molloy

A Dublin man will appear before judges in Italy today charged with murder, after his wife disappeared from a luxury cruise.

Daniel Belling (45) was boarding a flight back to Dublin with his young children when he was stopped at Rome's Ciampino Airport on Tuesday night.

He and his Chinese wife Xing Lei Li, together with their two children, were on an 11-day cruise around the Mediterranean when she disappeared.

Mr Belling is a German who has been living and working in Dublin as an IT consultant, with clients understood to include Apple.

The family's cruise began on February 9 in the port of Civitavecchia and took them to Malta, Greece and Cyprus.

When the luxury Magnifica cruise ship docked 10 days later, Mr Belling's wife was reported missing after crew members realised passenger details accounted for one less person.

Police stopped him from returning to Ireland and he was held for questioning in relation to her disappearance.

He had allegedly failed to tell the ship's crew that his wife was missing, a fact which aroused the suspicions of Italian police.

Cruise ship records show that Ms Li returned aboard the Magnifica after the outing in Genoa, meaning she disappeared between then and the end of the cruise. Her absence was only noticed when she failed to leave the ship at the end of the cruise on Monday this week.

The last reported time she was seen alive was in Genoa on February 10, just one day into the cruise, when the family went into a souvenir shop.

"I remember it well, we had just opened and it was 10am. First she entered with the two children, then he came in. He was agitated, he pulled out of a rucksack a pair of gym shoes and yelled at the woman," the owner told Italy's 'La Stampa' newspaper.

"He said 'Put these on instead of your sandals and shut up'."

Mr Belling's lawyer Luigi Conti told the Irish Independent that his client is completely denying he had anything to do with his wife's disappearance and said that there is a "perfectly good explanation" for what happened.

Ms Li previously appeared in court in Dublin, after having her front door broken down by gardaí when she refused to leave an apartment.

Dublin District Court heard there had been a dispute with the landlord over unpaid rent and because she was keeping pets, which was against the rules.

The couple had fallen behind in their rent when they both lost their jobs. They had just got married at the time.

The incident happened on August 22, 2010. The court heard that Li and her husband, Mr Belling, had had several eviction notices served on them over rent arrears, the keeping of cats and sub-letting a room.

Ms Li was prosecuted on a charge of burglary with intent to cause criminal damage. But Judge Catherine Murphy dismissed the charge.

Ms Li, with an address at Clare Village, Coolock, denied burglary at the apartment at Hunter's Hall, Hunterswood, Ballycullen.

Irish Independent

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