British businessman Neil Heywood was murdered by one of the most powerful women in China after he made a threatening demand for 13million from her playboy son, a court heard yesterday.Gu Kailai, who was said to be having an affair with the British businessman, lured him to a hotel room where she got him drunk [...]

Sunday Times 2

Chinese official’s wife admits poisoning UK businessman

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British businessman Neil Heywood was murdered by one of the most powerful women in China after he made a threatening demand for 13million from her playboy son, a court heard yesterday.Gu Kailai, who was said to be having an affair with the British businessman, lured him to a hotel room where she got him drunk and then laced his drink with cyanide.

The alleged motive behind 41-year-old Mr Heywood’s grisly death was revealed at the murder trial of Gu, dubbed the Jackie Kennedy of China. Her lawyer even argued that affable Mr Heywood, a father of two young children, ‘should bear some responsibility’ for his own murder.

In the dock: Gu Kailai, 52, and aide Zhang Xiaojun, 33, are escorted into the Hefei City People's Court to face charges relating to the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in November

The court heard the Jaguar-driving Englishman had fallen into an ‘economic dispute’ with Gu’s party-loving son Bo Guagua, 24, whom Mr Heywood had once mentored to secure a place at his alma mater, Harrow School.

Mr Bo, known for a love of champagne and shisha parties while studying at Oxford University, was allegedly told by Mr Heywood: ‘If you do not give me 13million, you will be destroyed,’ the judges heard, according to a reliable source who was in the courtroom.

These threats, in an email or letter, were said to have been forwarded by Bo to his mother.International media were banned from the highly-politicised trial, which concluded in less than seven hours in the Intermediate People’s Court in the eastern Chinese city of Hefei. The source added that the court heard it was not the first assassination plot on Mr Heywood, with Gu having previously conspired to kill him with a local police chief.

There have been reports, denied by Mr Heywood’s friends, that he and Gu – the wife of deposed Communist chief Bo Xilai – were having an affair. Last night, after the secretive trial ended, officials gave brief details of the case.
The court’s deputy director Tang Yigan announced: ‘Gu Kailai believed that Neil Heywood had threatened the personal safety of her son Bo and decided to kill him.’

Gu summoned him to Chongqing, the mega-city in southwestern China where her husband was Communist Party Secretary, on November 13 last year. They drank tea and wine together in room 1605 of the ‘Lucky Holiday Hotel’, before Mr Heywood became drunk and was sick. After he had vomited, Gu, 53, helped him drink a glass of water – which she had mixed with a lethal draft of potassium cyanide. A tiny drop can cause agonising death within minutes. ‘She poured it into Heywood’s mouth, killing him,’ said Mr Tang.

State television showed Gu, wearing a dark trouser suit and a white shirt, being led into the courtroom and seated in the dock. She appeared to have put on weight since she was detained earlier this year.

Neither Gu nor her co-accused – family bodyguard Zhang Xiajun, 33, who is alleged to have prepared the poison – entered pleas but they did not contest the murder charge against them. A student who was allowed to witness the case said Gu had appeared ‘calm’, despite the possibility she could be sentenced to death. ‘There were no tears. Both looked quite calm, peaceful. Both said they accepted the court’s authority,’ said the student. Mr Tang said prosecutors believed the facts of the ‘brutal’ crime were clear and backed by ‘ample evidence’, and that ‘Gu Kailai is the main culprit and Zhang is the accomplice’.

During the hearing, Gu was in a stable mood, said Mr Tang, but at the time of the murder, she had suffered from a ‘weaker than normal ability to control herself’.

Gu had reportedly made a full confession to police, which it was in her interests to do because it will act in her favour during sentencing deliberations. The judges reserved their verdict to an unspecified date within the next 30 days.
She will almost certainly be found guilty, but could be spared the executioner’s bullet because of her defence that she was only trying to protect her son. In a bid to further lighten her sentence, Gu was said to have made accusations about ‘other people’s crimes’, although no details were given.

Meanwhile, four policemen have been charged with trying to protect Gu from investigation – a development that could prove dangerous for her husband, who has so far not been charged with any offence.Police sources in Chongqing have said the former Politburo member tried to shut down the investigation into his wife after being told she was a suspect.
Gu, herself a career lawyer, was defended by a state-appointed lawyer with meagre experience in criminal cases.
As Mr Heywood was a British citizen, two UK diplomats were allowed rare access to witness proceedings. Friends and relatives of Mr Heywood were also among 140 people in court.

Daily Mail, London




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