herald

Monday 29 May 2017

Body in suitcase 'is not that of missing cruise mother-of-two'

Daniel Belling is being held on suspicion of killing Ms Li (right)
Daniel Belling is being held on suspicion of killing Ms Li (right)

The body of an Asian woman found in a suitcase in the sea off Italy on Saturday is unlikely to be that of missing Mediterranean cruise woman Li Yinglei.

Local police are investigating whether the grim find in Rimini harbour on Italy's Adriatic coast is that of the missing Dublin-based woman.

Two male nurses raised the alarm when they saw the blue suitcase in the water.

Inside the case, police discovered the remains of a woman wrapped in a bin-bag. Some reports said the remains were dismembered.

Italian authorities are due to carry out a post-mortem today.

There was an immediate suspicion that it might be Ms Li, but there are factors that make police now believe it may not be her.

Ms Li was last seen on the luxury cruise ship MSC Magnifica on February 11. She was travelling with her IT husband, Daniel Belling (45), and their two young children.

The family, who live in Clare Hall, Dublin, set sail from Civitavecchia on Italy's west coast on February 9. The ship then sailed to Malta, Greece and Cyprus.

Ms Li's husband was arrested in Italy after he tried to catch a Ryanair flight to Ireland with his two young children on February 20. He is being held in a prison in Rome on suspicion of Ms Li's murder.

Earlier, the cruise company found that Ms Li was unaccounted for when they did a head count at the end of the cruise.

Row

Belling, who was born in Germany, denied killing her and said she had quit the trip after they had a row. He said he expected her to travel to either Ireland or her native China.

Today, Daniel Belling's solicitor said he believes the body found in the suitcase is not that of the missing mother-of-two.

Speaking to the Herald, Luigi Conti said he has heard the body that has been recovered does not match the description of Belling's wife.

"The body in the suitcase is 170cm in height but Daniel Belling's wife is smaller than that. I am also told it is a different type of body than that of Mr Belling's wife," he said.

It was not clear whether this meant the body found was of a different nationality or of a different description to the missing Chinese woman.

It also seems unlikely that the body, if it were Ms Li's, could have ended up in Rimini harbour, more than 400 miles north of the ship's route.

Mr Conti said he would be visiting Mr Belling in prison today.

"He knows a body has been found. I have not been talking to him but I will see him tomorrow [Monday] and will talk then but I believe the body that has been found is not his wife."

Last week, an Italian judge ruled that Mr Belling must remain in custody in Rome's Regina Coeli prison after attempts were made for him to be released on bail.

There was no answer at Belling's Clare Hall apartment yesterday but his wife's car, which advertises her party planning business, is still parked in the underground car park below.

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