MIAMI, Florida–In a very strange case, a man employed as an IT consultant, who was on a cruise with his wife and two small children, was arrested in Rome, Italy, where he is suspected of the murder of his wife during an 11-day Mediterranean cruise aboard the passenger cruise ship MSC Magnifica, operated by MSC Cruises.
At the end of the cruise, the husband and the two children left the vessel and were at Rome’s airport waiting for their flight home to Dublin when the arrest occurred. Authorities were suspicious because the tracking of the passengers showed that the wife had never left the cruise ship and had never been reported missing by her husband. After some questioning of the young children, as well as other reports that surfaced regarding an interaction with a gift shop employee and the couple, Belling was arrested in Rome for the suspected murder of his wife.
His attorney has stated that there is an explanation for the disappearance of his wife and the reason it was not reported. This was discussed at the preliminary hearing this past Friday, where Mr. Belling said his wife was not enjoying the cruise and assumed she just went back home to Ireland, as she had done on past family vacations. However, the judge ruled that Mr. Belling should remain in custody because of his “suspect” behavior and the risk that he would leave Italy if released.
At this time, the wife’s body has not been located, and the last time she was seen was either the first or second day of the cruise. The children have been placed in a state run family house waiting to be reunited with other members of their family.
Clearly these are extremely suspicious circumstances, pointing to something serious that happened involving the husband who had been arrested. We will await to see whether his explanation is confirmed, which conceivably could be that the wife decided to leave her family at one of the ports, and of course the suspicions at this point is that she was murdered by her husband, as he is being charged not only with the murder, but also the crime of interfering with a proper burial of his wife.
Although extremely different factual circumstances, this reported case brought back the memories of the disappearance of George Smith during a Mediterranean cruise aboard the Brilliance of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. George Smith was on his honeymoon at the time he went missing, believed to have either been fallen overboard from his balcony or having been thrown off his balcony by someone. Foul play was always suspected in the case of George Smith. However, his disappearance remains a mystery more than 10 years later, as the FBI never made any conclusions as to his disappearance, and no one was ever charged with a crime surrounding his disappearance.
In the case of George Smith, the over serving of alcohol was believed to be a substantial cause that contributed to his disappearance, and his disappearance led to inquiries into the cruise ship industry, including their procedures for investigating and reporting such incidents. Many believed that the investigation in the early stages when George Smith went missing was botched and resulted in the inability to solve a potential crime. His disappearance led to congressional hearings which then led to legislation addressing cruise ship safety and security.
It will be interesting in this case involving the MSC ship what facts surface as to what exactly happened to the wife, details as to when and where she went missing, and how her disappearance was kept secret during an entire 11-day cruise.