Italian police continue to search for the body of a Chinese woman who went missing from a luxury Mediterranean cruise in February, as her husband Daniel Belling, 45, is detained in Rome, accused of her murder.
After searching the cabin that the couple occupied with their two children on cruise ship MSC Magnifica, the authorities found that the only missing item belonging to 36-year-old Xing Lei Li (who went by the Western name Angie) is her large, blue and orange suitcase.
All her other personal belongings, including mobile phone, credit card and Irish residence permit were found in the cabin, as well as her red coat, shoes and gowns.
The authorities are investigating the hypothesis that her husband used the suitcase to get rid of her body, throwing it overboard.
Italian investigative TV show Chi L'ha Visto? reported that the couple's cabin was located on the 11th floor of the ship. It was 120m (400ft) away from a terrace facing the sea, where under the cover of darkness and the noise of the engines, an object could be thrown overboard without attracting attention.
German IT consultant Daniel Belling, who has worked for Apple, insisted during a four-hour long appearance in front of a judge for preliminary investigation that his wife left him and the children of her own free will. According to him, the woman left on 13 February when the ship stopped in the Greek port of Katakolon. The ships had left the Italian harbour of Civitavecchia on 9 February.
"When we boarded again she was no longer there, her suitcase was gone too, but I wasn't shocked," he said in the interrogation, as reported in Italian media. "In fact, I even asked a person on the ship's cleaning staff to just arrange the room for three people rather than four."
But the woman was last seen on the ship on 10 February, after the ship sailed from the Italian town of Genoa, the day on which her electronic boarding pass was last used. A waiter who had been assigned to the family's table that evening told Chi L'ha Visto? ("Who has seen them?") that he saw the couple having dinner together that evening, but not again throughout the duration of the cruise.
No one on the ship in fact has claimed to have seen the woman after 10 February. According to Belling's defence lawyers Luigi Conti and Laura Camomilla, this may change. "Only 5-6 people have been interrogated by the police so far" they said, appearing on the TV show on 8 March. "It does not mean others have not seen her."
The woman was reported missing after she failed to appear on the passengers' list once the ship returned to Civitavecchia on 20 February. Angie's mother, who has arrived in Italy to care for her grandchildren, told the Italian TV show she has no news of her daughter. In fact, she had only found out about her disappearance through a person who spoke English who read the news online.
Belling was arrested as he was boarding a flight from Rome to Dublin, Ireland, where the family lived. He told the authorities his wife had left without saying a word once before, so he was not initially concerned about her disappearance. According to his lawyers, he had tried calling his wife but gave up after a few days, getting no response. Investigators have not been able to trace those calls.