A judge in Rome, Italy has ruled that a father of two will remain in custody due to “suspect behavior” after he returned from a Mediterranean cruise on the MSC Magnifica without his wife.
Daniel Belling, a 45-year-old German man who resides in Dublin, Ireland, was arrested shortly after disembarking an 11-day cruise in Civitavecchia, Italy, with just his two children, aged six and four, and not his Chinese-born wife, Li Yinglei.
Belling was apprehended at Rome’s Ciampino Airport while waiting for a flight home to Dublin with his two boys, reports The Telegraph.
The ship’s crew claims that Belling never reported Yinglei as missing during the cruise, which departed on Feb. 9 from Civitavecchia and stopped in other Italian ports of call, as well as Malta, Greece and Cyprus before returning on Feb. 20.
During a hearing on Friday, Belling and his defense lawyer Luigi Conti offered an explanation for his behavior, The Irish Times reports.
According to Belling, Yinglei was not enjoying the family vacation, so sometime between stops in Malta and Greece, she informed him that she wanted off the ship. Once in Greece, Belling says Yinglei opted to stay on the ship while he and their children went sightseeing in Katakolon-- but when they returned, she was nowhere to be found.
Yinglei’s belongings were gone too, said Belling.
At the hearing, the father-of-two claimed that he didn’t report his wife missing because she has a history of doing this kind of thing — she left a previous vacation early, he says — and assumed she was already on her way home to Dublin.
Conti also argued that Belling wasn’t trying to hide his wife’s absence at all, saying that Belling even informed a chambermaid of his wife’s early departure, and told her to make only three beds instead of four.
“His behavior after disembarking was not that of a person who was trying to flee,” Conti added in a statement to The Telegraph. “He simply headed to Ciampino airport with his children to catch the flight that he had booked when he first organized the cruise.”
Yinglei was last seen with her family on Feb. 10 in Genoa, Italy, by the owner of a souvenir shop, who spoke with a local newspaper.
“[Belling] was agitated, he pulled out of a rucksack a pair of gym shoes and yelled at the woman,” recalled the shop owner. “He said ‘Put these on instead of your sandals and shut up.'”
Until the public prosecutor’s office files charges, Preliminary Investigative Judge Maria Paola Tomaselli has ordered Belling to remain in the Regina Coeli prison in Rome due to both his “suspect” behavior and concerns that he poses a flight risk. His children have been placed in a state-run home until they can be reunited with family in Ireland.
Belling’s lawyer added that Belling is very concerned about his wife, his kids, and himself “in that order.”