'I was told of daughter's disappearance by friend who can read English' - says mother of missing cruise ship woman
The mother of a woman missing from a luxury cruise ship said she discovered the bad news from a friend who could read English.
Yinglei Li's mother said her friend read an article in English on the internet and informed her that her daughter was missing, her son-in-law had been arrested and her two grandchildren were in care in Italy.
Dublin-based IT consultant Daniel Belling (45) is now in prison on suspicion of murdering his wife during the Mediterranean cruise.
He said he believes she is still alive and is either in Dublin or her native China.
He said he last saw Li Yinglei when their ship docked on the Greek island of Katakolon. When he returned to the vessel after an outing with his sons, she had gone, along with her suitcase and her mobile phone, he claimed.
Mr Belling's lawyer, Luigi Conti, told the Sunday Independent yesterday that his client did not kill his wife. He said Ms Yinglei was a missing person and the international police agency Interpol was obliged to search for her.
Efforts are now being made to repatriate the two children who are currently in the care of Italian social services.
"Neither her husband Daniel or the investigators told me that my daughter was missing from the ship... " she said.
"I was told by someone who speaks English and read an article on the internet."
She said she last spoke to her daughter on February 7, before they embarked on the cruise holiday.
"I don't know what to say. I hope we can shine a light on this," she added.
Mr Belling, who is originally from Germany, made international headlines last Thursday 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.