Dublin-based murder suspect Daniel Belling is settling into family life again after 14 months in an Italian jail.
German-born Mr Belling (46) flew back into Dublin last week after his solicitor persuaded authorities to release him from custody.
Italian police have spent the past 14 months trying to build a case against him after his Chinese wife disappeared during an 11-day Mediterranean cruise in February last year.
Computer programmer Mr Belling is now back in his Clare Hall apartment with the mother of his missing wife, Xing Li (38), as these exclusive pictures from the Sunday World reveal.
He has been seen out and about enjoying a rare glimpses of sunshine, but has declined to comment on the case.
He said his primary focus now is on his family.
“He’s been seen coming and going as if nothing has happened,” said a source. “He’s picked up exactly where he left off.”
“After he was arrested, the apartment lay idle for a year. Nobody knew what would happen next. Then his mother-in-law moved in a few weeks ago. Now he is back.
“Everyone has questions, but nobody has answers.”
In an exclusive interview with the Herald last month, Xing Li’s mother, You Xiang Zhen, broke her silence and said the situation was “very sad”.
Speaking through an interpreter, she said: “I just have to get through it”.
Xing Li, also known as Angie, has not been seen since February 10 last year.
She and Mr Belling and their two children boarded the cruise ship MSC Magnifica in the Italian port of Civitavecchia on February 9.
After the ship set sail, it called at Genoa and ports in Malta, Greece and Cyprus.
Crew members noticed Xing Li was missing when they did a head count at the end of the cruise.
Mr Belling and the couple’s two children were stopped by Italian police at Rome’s Ciampino Airport on February 17 after Xing Li could not be accounted for.
They were about to board a Ryanair flight back home.
Mr Belling, who was imprisoned in a Rome jail, has repeatedly denied killing his wife and has not been charged with any offence.
His lawyer, Luigi Conti, successfully had him released from custody last week while authorities continue their investigation into the disappearance.
Investigators thought they had a breakthrough in the case in March last year when a suitcase containing the body of an Oriental woman was found floating in the Adriatic Sea off Italy’s east coast.
However, the body was not that of Xing Li.
Mr Belling reportedly told an Italian judge that he and his wife had fought and that she wanted to “quit the trip”. 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 has said that he now has incontrovertible proof that Xing Li had been planning to disappear before she even set foot on the ship.
“Interviews Li did with psychologists and doctors in Ireland before they ever went on the cruise prove she was planning on leaving Daniel,” he said.
“In the statements, which I have copies of, 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’.”
Mr Conti said that in interviews with police, Xing Li’s mother defended Daniel, saying it was impossible that he killed her daughter.
Speaking in Italy after his release on Tuesday, Mr Belling told reporters he believes he was set up by his wife after she arranged her disappearance.
Mr Belling described her as a “cruel person” for allowing him to spend 14 months in jail for a crime “she knows I did not commit”.
“I think my wife is most probably in China,” he said. “There is a small probability that something happened to her in Greece, but I believe she is in China. I was worried about my wife for the first few weeks, but not anymore. I think she knows I have been imprisoned.”
Mr Belling, who said he is not angry, claimed his wife “always had a very strange personality”.
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, but had to be released if no evidence was produced.
In a sworn statement to investigators, Xi Ling’s mother said the couple “often” argued while she lived with them in Ireland. However, she said she did not suspect Mr Belling of involvement in her daughter’s disappearance.
She said Mr Belling was a “very good person”.