A Dublin man has been sentenced to 26 years in prison by an Italian court for murdering his wife and disposing of her body while they were holidaying on a cruise ship.

Daniel Belling, who holds dual German and Irish citizenship, was convicted in absentia in a court in Rome yesterday.

It is believed the 50-year-old may still be living in north Dublin.

Mr Belling faced charges of killing Chinese national Xing Lei Li, 38, after staff on the cruise ship conducted a head count and realised the mother-of-two was missing.

On February 11, 2017, she vanished without a trace while on a Mediterranean cruise, Mr Belling denied any involvement in his wife’s disappearance.

Daniel Belling
Dublin man Daniel Belling. Pic: Collins Courts

Speaking before the trial, Mr Belling said he believes someone else may have killed her. He said: ‘I think (someone) may have killed her. Maybe she knew something. I don’t know, she just said on the cruise, “I will be back, I need to do some business”.

‘She had said that to me earlier before too so I was just, like, okay. That was the day before. I think she was depressive in her anger management issues so I think it’s something psychological also. I don’t know why she wouldn’t come back. Like, is she in a coma maybe?

‘It was [upsetting] but not any more. One cannot have an opinion about any court case where one is not involved.

‘That stupid prosecutor in Italy, she’s responsible [for] the children being without anyone and being in an orphanage while I was in prison for 14 months for nothing. They don’t have any evidence. I think it’s a career move.

‘I have no intention of going to jail. It would be unjust. Crazy.’

During the preliminary hearing, Mr Belling’s lawyers, Laura Camomilla and Luigi Conti, argued that there was no motive for the murder, but the judge decided the case should be brought before trial.

The father-of-two previously said that he believes his wife is alive and well and that was cruel enough to allow him languish in prison despite knowing that he was innocent.

Missing Yinglei Li, with husband Daniel Belling. Mr Belling is charged with
her murder, but has denied he is
responsible for her vanishing.

The Chinese mother, who ran a wedding business and lived in Clarehall, Co. Dublin, was last seen on February 11, 2017, on board the MSC Magnifica.

Mr Belling was arrested while attempting to board a Ryanair flight from Rome to Dublin and was in custody from then until his release in April 2018.

He has always insisted he had nothing to do with his wife’s disappearance, telling Italian police she left of her own free will during the ten-day family cruise that started in Civitavecchia in Italy and took them to Malta, Greece and Cyprus.

Mr Belling had allegedly failed to tell the luxury cruise ship’s crew that his wife was not on board, a fact which aroused the suspicions of Italian police.

He claims that she left the ship of her own accord in Greece. In 2018, Mr Belling said: ‘I think my wife is most probably in China.

‘There is a small probability that something happened to her in Greece but I believe she is in China. I have no intention of trying to find my wife.

‘I plan to go to Ireland as fast as possible. My mother-in-law is living in my apartment and we are on very good terms.’

Mr Belling said he believes his wife was cruel enough to have left him in prison but insisted he is not angry with her.

Mother of two Yinglei Li Pic: Facebook

He said: ‘I was worried about my wife for the first few weeks but not anymore, no. I think she knows I have been imprisoned. I’m not angry. She always had a very strange personality.’

When asked if Ms Li would be so cruel as to leave him in prison, Mr Belling replied: ‘Yes, of course, she is definitely that cruel. She was that cruel already.’

Under Italian law, Mr Belling was allowed to be held without formal charge or trial for a year to give the prosecution time to investigate the matter, but had to be released if no evidence was produced.

Ms Li’s mother, You Xiang Zhen, previously alleged that her missing daughter argued frequently with Mr Belling.

She also said, in a statement to prosecutors in Rome, that her daughter had bruises on her wrists after one row with him.