An Italian judge has said a Dublin-based German man arrested over the alleged murder of his wife during a Mediterranean cruise should remain in custody.
Preliminary investigative judge, Maria Paola Tomaselli, held a lengthy hearing in the Rome prison of Regina Coeli on Friday.
Following further consideration in chambers, the judge issued her ruling just before midnight in time to ensure that Daniel Belling (46) was not released.
In her ruling, the judge said that the man should remain in custody both because of his “suspect” behaviour and also because there was a real danger that, if released, he would attempt to escape the country.
The man had been arrested last Monday after staff on the cruise ship MSC Magnifica noticed that when the ship returned to the port of Civitavecchia, after a ten day cruise, his Chinese wife, Li Yinglei (36) was missing.
The man remains in prison until such time as the public prosecutor’s offices completes its investigation and files charges against him. His lawyer said he is an IT Consultant based in Dublin,
Defence lawyer Luigi Conti believes that the investigative procedure may be relatively brief and the case will come to court within less than a year.
The couples’ two children, six and four-year-old boys, who were on the cruise with them have been placed in a state-run ‘family house’. But the court authorities may now investigate whether there are relatives willing to take the children.
Defence lawyer Luigi Conti, said that the man had given an explanation both for the disappearance of his wife during the cruise and for the fact that he had not reported her missing to the ship’s captain.
He said that on the night that the ship sailed from La Valletta in Malta to Katakolon in Greece, his wife had told him that she was tired of the cruise, that she was not enjoying it and that she wanted to get off the ship.
He said when the ship stopped at Katakolon, she had chosen to remain on board while her husband had got off with their two children for a day of sightseeing.
He said that when he returned to the ship with the children that evening, he found that his wife had left, taking her own clothes and luggage with her.
The man said that he had not immediately reported her as missing because in the past she had behaved similarly, walking off during a family holiday.
He claimed that he thought she had probably returned to Dublin.
Not only was he not worried by her departure but he had so accepted it that he told the ship’s chambermaids to make up three beds rather than four because his wife had abandoned the cruise.
Defence lawyer Mr Conti claims that at least one chambermaid has confirmed that the man did indeed issue that instruction to her.The man offered this explanation by way of suggesting that he had been hiding nothing.
Mr Conti said that the next day, he had tried to contact her, ringing her cell phone but it had rung out without her replying. In the meantime, no ship’s official had asked about the disappearance of his wife since he himself had already explained it to the personnel.
According to his lawyer, the man is calm but he is very worried about his wife, his children and himself “in that order”.