Case of missing Dublin-based woman highlighted on Italian TV

Xiang Lei Li disappeared during a 10-day Mediterranean cruise with her family

The MSC Magnifica. A Dublin-based woman went missing while travelling on board the vessel last month. Photograph: MSC Cruises

The MSC Magnifica. A Dublin-based woman went missing while travelling on board the vessel last month. Photograph: MSC Cruises

 

The case of Dublin-based Chinese woman Xiang Lei Li, who went missing last month during a Mediterranean cruise, featured on Italian TV’s missing persons programme Chi L’Ha Visto on Wednesday.

Ms Li was on the MSC Magnifica which left from the port of Civitavecchia, north of Rome, on February 9th, along with her German husband, Daniel Belling, and their two sons, Bernhard (six) and Sven Nicolas (four).

She appears never to have got off the boat.

Mr Belling is being held on suspicion of murdering his wife during the 10-day cruise.

The programme reported some of the testimony given by You Xiang Zhen, Ms Li’s mother, to Italian investigators.

She reportedly offered a positive view of her daughter’s marriage, saying Mr Belling was a “good man” who would never have harmed his wife.

Ms Li’s mother also ruled out a suggestion that her daughter would have taken her own life, saying that she was “not depressed”.

However, she did admit that she had seen and heard the couple arguing while they were staying with her.

Reporter Ercole Rocchetti also spoke to people who knew Ms Li and Mr Belling, mainly neighbours and members of Dublin’s Chinese community.

They claimed the couple had some problems.

Ms Li is not registered as having alighted either in Civitavecchia on February 20th at the end of the cruise or at any moment during the voyage.

After the ship’s personnel alerted police to the fact that Ms Li had not disembarked, officers traced Mr Belling to Ciampino Airport in Rome, where he was waiting to board a flight to Dublin.

He was arrested and his two sons were placed in a children’s home, where they remain.

Preliminary hearing

Judge Maria Paola Tomaselli rejected the evidence of Mr Belling (44) during a preliminary hearing two weeks ago.

Mr Belling had told the court that his wife got off the ship at the Greek port of Katakolon of her own volition.

The judge’s ruling highlighted the testimony of two of the ship’s crew, who had told police that the last time they saw Ms Li was on the evening of February 10th.

The crew members confirmed that for the rest of the trip Mr Belling and his two sons had eaten their meals without Ms Li.

When asked to explain his wife’s disappearance, Mr Belling at first claimed that she had gotten off the boat for “urgent business” reasons.

He then asserted his right not to answer questions.

The judge’s ruling said it was strange that Ms Li did not take all of her belongings with her if and when she got off the ship, pointing out that she left her credit card, her mobile phone and her wallet on board.

Asked about his relationship with his wife, Mr Belling admitted during the hearing that it was marked by “tensions”.