Tuesday 20 August 2019

Mum of woman missing from cruise ship says her daughter fought frequently with her husband

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
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The mother of a woman missing from a luxury cruise ship said that her daughter frequently fought with her husband but does not believe he is behind her disappearance.

Chinese-born Li Yinglei was on a luxury cruise in the Mediterranean with her husband Daniel Belling (45) and their children when she disappeared.

Mr Belling is now in prison on suspicion of murdering his wife during the cruise.

He said he believes she is still alive and is either in Dublin or her native China.

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

However, she told Chi L'Ha Visto that she doesn't believe Mr Belling had anything to do with Yinglei's 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," Xiang Zhen told the crime show,  according to the Irish Daily Mail.

She also told the show she doesn't believe her daughter was depressed and took her own life as she would "never have left her children".

Mr Belling, who is originally from Germany, made international headlines when he was arrested at an Italian airport as he was about to board a plane home to Ireland after his wife vanished from the luxury cruise.

The couple, who live in Clare Hall in 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.

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

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 and their two children 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 last Friday that the family 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 with the boys.

"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. Their two young sons were born here.

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