Murky waters | 

Murder trial of Dublin-based man whose wife vanished from cruise liner begins

German father-of-three Daniel Belling (49) is accused of killing his wife and throwing her body into the sea

Daniel Belling and his wife Xing Li in 2011

Catherine Fegan

The Italian trial of a Dublin-based IT worker accused of killing his wife and throwing her body into the sea is taking place in his absence.

Prosecutors allege that German father-of-three Daniel Belling (49) killed his wife, Chinese national Xing Li (38), while they were on a Mediterranean cruise in 2017.

Mr Belling's lawyer Luigi Conti told the Sunday World the trial has started to hear evidence from witnesses.

"Next month we will hear from the captain of the ship," he said.

"Things have been proceeding well. Mr Belling has not been in attendance. In Italy you can choose whether or not to attend your own trial."

It is understood that while in jail, Mr Belling made a number of phone calls to his nephew in Germany as well as his mother in law, You Xiangzhen.

These were recorded and an application has been made to have them transcribed and produced as evidence.

At the same hearing, Ms You filed a civil action against Mr Belling, seeking damages if he is convicted of killing her daughter.

Mr Conti said he has submitted the defence witness list to court, which includes "personnel from Tusla".

Mr Belling is currently in Ireland.

Daniel Belling

In July 2020, Italian investigators announced that their probe into Ms Xing's disappearance had determined that computer programmer Mr Belling killed his wife while on the ship and disposed of her body in the sea.

Mr Belling returned to Ireland in 2018 after 14 months on remand in an Italian jail in relation to the disappearance.

His solicitor persuaded authorities to release him from custody and he returned to the home he shared with his wife in Clarehall, Dublin.

Ms Xing, Mr Belling and their two children boarded cruise ship MSC Magnifica in the Italian port of Civitavecchia on February 9.

Crew members noticed Ms Xing was missing when they did a head count at the end of the cruise.

Mr Belling and the couple's two children were stopped by Italian police at Rome's Ciampino Airport on February 17 as they were about to board a flight home.

Mr Belling has always denied killing his wife.

Investigators thought they had a breakthrough in March 2017 when a suitcase containing the body of an Asian woman was found floating in the Adriatic Sea off Italy's east coast.

However, the body was not that of Ms Xing.

Mr Belling reportedly told an Italian judge that he and his wife had fought and that she wanted to "quit the trip".

According to reports, he claimed his wife left the ship when he and the children joined a shore excursion.

Speaking in Italy after his release in 2018, Mr Belling told reporters he believed she had arranged her disappearance.

He described her as a "cruel person" for allowing him to spend 14 months in jail for a crime "I did not commit".

"I think my wife is most probably in China.

"There is a small probability something happened her in Greece, but I believe she is in China."

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