Wednesday 14 November 2018

Man accused of murdering his wife on cruise ship 'released from jail'

Missing mother Li Yinglei with her husband David Belling Photo: Kyran O’Brien
Missing mother Li Yinglei with her husband David Belling Photo: Kyran O’Brien
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

A man accused of murdering his wife on a cruise ship has been released from jail, according to local reports.

Dublin-based IT worker Daniel Belling (45) was held in custody in Italy in connection with the disappearance of his Chinese wife Xiang Lei Li.

Daniel Belling and Xing Lei Li
Daniel Belling and Xing Lei Li

In February last year, Mr Belling was boarding a flight back to Dublin when he was stopped at Rome's Ciampino Airport.

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

After being arrested in connection to her disappearance, Mr Belling was sent to the Regina Coeli prison in Rome last February as the investigation continued.

Local Italian media report that after a successful appeal, Mr Belling was released from jail on Monday.

According to Italian news organisation 'Corriere Della Sera', Mr Belling's lawyers Luigi Conti and Laura Camomilla asked Rome Court for his release on bail.

The news site reports that investigations are ongoing and there may still be a trial, but it is unknown when the trial will be held.

Mr Belling is now free to return home to Dublin.

Disappearance

Since her disappearance, there have been no traces of Xiang Lei Li.

The couple, who live in Clare Hall in Dublin, had set off on an 11-day cruise 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.

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

Ms Yinglei was registered on the Magnifica's passenger record on February 10, following a stop-over at Genoa, the day after the ship set sail.

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

"He said: 'Put these on instead of your sandals and shut up'," she 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 that the couple remained together until the ship reached Katakolon.

Mr Belling reportedly told the judge that they had quarrelled the night before and she wanted to "quit the trip". According reports in local Italian press, he claimed his wife left while he was on an outing.

"I thought she was returning to Dublin. She was acting weird lately," he reportedly told the judge.

Mr Belling did not report his wife's disappearance to the ship's staff. However, his lawyer, Mr Conti, told the Sunday Independent that after she left, Mr Belling informed the cleaning personnel that three people were now staying in the room, not four.

"This comportment [is] not the comportment of a killer," he said.

Mr Belling and Ms Yinglei, who also goes by the name Angie Li, have lived in the apartment block near the Clare Hall shopping centre for several years.

Mr Belling worked as an IT consultant to firms such as Apple while Ms Yinglei set up her own wedding planning business targeted at the Chinese community in the city.   

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News