The Italian trial of a father of two accused of murdering his wife while on a cruise ship has been postponed so that phone calls he made from prison can be transcribed.
German computer scientist Daniel Belling (49) who lived in north Dublin until recently, is accused of killing his wife, Chinese national Xing Li, while she was on a Mediterranean ship in 2017 and for throwing his body into the sea.
Mr Belling’s Italian lawyer, Luigi Conti, said Independent.ie that his trial, which was due to start earlier today, has been postponed to October 26 so that a consultant can be appointed to “transcribe the wiretaps in prison”.
Mr Belling spent 14 months in pre-trial detention in an Italian prison following the disappearance of his wife. His lawyer persuaded the authorities to release him and he returned to the house he shared with his wife in Clarehall, north Dublin. He is said to have lived there until recently and is currently in Germany.
It is understood that while in prison, he made a number of phone calls to his nephew in Germany as well as to his mother-in-law, You Xiangzhen. The conversations were recorded and a request was made to have them transcribed and produced in evidence.
At a brief hearing in Rome yesterday, You Xiangzhen filed a civil suit against Mr Belling, seeking damages if he is convicted of murdering his daughter.
Mr Belling is currently in Germany, but is expected to attend the trial in Italy at a later date, according to Mr Conti.
In July last year, Italian investigators announced that their investigation into the mysterious disappearance of Xing Li (38) had determined that her husband, computer programmer Daniel Belling, had killed his wife while he was on the ship and threw his body into the sea.
Xing Li, also known as Angie, has not been seen since February 10, 2017.
She and Mr Belling and their two children boarded the MSC Magnifica cruise ship in the Italian port of Civitavecchia on February 9.
After the ship’s departure, it called at Genoa and at the ports of Malta, Greece and Cyprus.
The crew noticed that Xing Li was missing when they took a count at the end of the cruise.
Mr. Belling and the couple’s two children were arrested by Italian police at Rome Ciampino Airport on February 17 after Xing Li could not be located.
They were about to board a Ryanair flight home.
Mr. Belling has repeatedly denied killing his wife.
Investigators believed they made a breakthrough in the case in March 2017 when a suitcase containing the body of an Asian woman was found floating in the Adriatic Sea off the east coast of Italy.
However, the body was not Xing Li’s.
Mr Belling reportedly told an Italian judge that he and his wife had fought and that she wanted to “stop the journey”. According to reports in the Italian press, he claimed his wife left the ship when he and the children joined a shore excursion. Mr. Conti said he now had indisputable proof that Xing Li had planned to disappear before he even set foot on the ship.
“The interviews Li conducted with psychologists and doctors in Ireland before they went on the cruise prove that she was planning to leave Daniel,” he said.
“In the statements, of which I have copies, she says in her own words: ‘My life in Ireland is like a prison. I want to go back to China and leave the children with Daniel.”
Speaking in Italy after his release from prison in 2018, Mr Belling told reporters he believed he was trapped by his wife after she organized his disappearance.
Mr Belling described her as a “cruel person” for allowing her to spend 14 months in prison for a crime “which she knows I did not commit”.
“I think my wife is most likely in China,” he said. “There is a low probability that something has happened to her in Greece, but I think she is in China. I was worried about my wife for the first few weeks, but not anymore. I think she knows that I have been imprisoned. “
Mr Belling, who said he was not angry, said his wife “has always had a very strange personality”.