Briton in China murder riddle 'poisoned by cyanide drops': Sensational new claims about expat's mystery death in hotel
- Neil Heywood was 'poisoned to cover up adultery and £800m wire transfers'
- Websites claim Chinese official has confessed that he prepared the poison
A British businessman found dead in a Chinese hotel was murdered on the orders of a fallen Communist Party chief, according to new reports.
The extraordinary accounts – published on respected Mandarin-language websites yesterday – claimed to expose a sex-and-money scandal behind China's biggest political crisis in a generation.
The websites described how Old Harrovian Neil Heywood, 41, died from cyanide poisoning after allegedly having an affair with lawyer Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, seen until recently as a future leader of China.
British expat Neil Heywood was found dead in a hotel room in Chongqing, western China, in November
It was alleged yesterday that Mr Heywood was murdered after helping Mrs Gu to siphon nearly £800million of assets overseas.
He was poisoned last November in a hotel room in the mega-city of Chongqing by a henchman of city party leader Mr Bo, using a lethal dose of potassium cyanide – a poison that kills within minutes in tiny doses, according to the claims.
A single teaspoon of potassium cyanide is 50 times the fatal dose and shuts down body cells, rendering victims unconscious in ten to 20 seconds and dead within minutes, leaving the appearance of death by cardiac arrest.
A city official has allegedly confessed that he prepared the poison and handed it to an employee of Mr Bo, who administered it to Mr Heywood on the party chief's instructions, according to the accounts.
It is not known how the poison was given to Mr Heywood – who is understood to have lain dead for up to 36 hours before being discovered by a hotel cleaner – but a tiny drop put into a drink would have been enough to kill him.
Police chief Wang Lijun, who later turned whistleblower and fled to a US consulate seeking asylum, allegedly ordered his officers to record Mr Heywood's death as a heart attack. Bo had those officers who refused to do so imprisoned and tortured, according to the blog accounts.
In the latest twist, it now appears that Bo's playboy son Bo Guagua may be seeking asylum in the US. According to reports, he has left his Boston home with a police escort after a group of Chinese men were seen watching his flat.
What appears to be the inside story of the biggest political crisis in China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre emerged yesterday on suppressed internet sites linked to Chinese dissidents, four days after Beijing announced that Bo had been officially ejected from the ruling Politburo.
That same announcement revealed that Mr Bo's wife Gu and family employee Zhang Xiaojun had been arrested and were 'highly suspected' of the murder of Mr Heywood, although it gave no details of how he was killed.
The move – suggesting the government is encouraging or even planting stories about the Heywood affair – implies that the accounts are officially sanctioned, or that officials are intent on spreading black propaganda to crush any residual support for Mr Bo. However, sources close to the situation say that internet rumours so far have been '95 per cent accurate'.
Many of the key claims over the scandal circulating on the internet in China – including Mr Bo ordering the killing, the way Mr Heywood was poisoned, the huge transfers of money overseas and the previous crimes and affairs of Mr Bo – originate from the US-based anti-Communist Boxun website, which is routinely blocked within China.
Last night, the unconfirmed accounts of Heywood's murder were continuing to run on a variety of reputable and widely-read websites within China, including a major legal site and the political website chinathinktank.cn.
Charismatic 62-year-old Mr Bo's political career was effectively brought to a close with Tuesday's announcement of his suspension and his wife's arrest over Mr Heywood's murder.
A month earlier, he was deposed as Chongqing party leader after police chief Wang fled to the US consulate in Chengdu, seeking asylum and implicating Mr Bo and his wife in the crime.
The family of Mr Heywood, a suave middle-class Englishman who became close to one of China's top political dynasties, was originally told he had died of a heart attack triggered by excessive drinking, despite the fact he rarely touched alcohol.
Father-of-two Mr Heywood met Mr Bo when he was mayor of the north-east city of Dalian in the Nineties and became an unlikely confidante, mentoring Mr Bo's indulged son Bo Guagua and helping him get a place at his alma mater, Harrow.
Their relationship disintegrated when Mrs Gu reportedly asked Heywood to swear allegiance to the Bo family and divorce his Chinese-born wife Wang Lulu, who is now reported to be desperate to flee China. Mr Heywood refused and, fearing for his safety, considered taking wife, son and daughter back to Britain. Then, in November, he was summoned to a meeting with the Bo family in Chongqing and ended up dead in a hotel room, having earlier reportedly told a friend he had lodged details of the Bo family finances with a lawyer in Britain as a security.
Despite his downfall, Mr Bo remains hugely popular in Chongqing and Dalian – the cities he treated as personal fiefdoms – where many supporters believe Mr Heywood's murder and Mrs Gu's arrest are an elaborate set-up by his political enemies.
There were false rumours of an attempted coup in Beijing by his allies when he was ousted as Chongqing leader in March, and China's leaders remain desperate to quell party infighting ahead of a once-in-a-decade leadership switch this autumn, giving them a strong incentive to discredit Bo.
One account claims Mr Bo was a philanderer who slept with more than 100 women, including TV presenters and models, during his time as Dalian mayor from 1993 to 2000.
Billionaire chemical tycoon Xu Ming – a supporter of Mr Bo who is now also under investigation – is alleged to have sought out young women for Mr Bo to sleep with, according to the account.
Mr Bo's former police chief Wang Lijun is said to have secretly videoed Bo with some of his lovers when his philandering continued in Chongqing, and to have compiled a dossier of evidence against him that he handed over to the US consulate in Chengdu in February.
The account described Mr Bo as being 'drunk with power and in thrall to his own personality cult, regarding himself as behind only the first Chinese emperor Qin Shihuang and Mao Zedong as the greatest man in Chinese history'.
It alleges that Mr Bo and his wife Gu had been involved in the murder of a number of other people in Dalian and Chongqing, and claimed Mr Bo had received the equivalent of nearly £100million in bribes during his time in Chongqing alone.
A separate, online account containing a number of the same key facts alleges that Mr Heywood was responsible for transferring eight billion yuan (nearly £800million) in assets to overseas accounts on Mrs Gu's behalf.
Describing Mr Heywood's poisoning, the account says a hotel- room attendant found his body on November 14. 'Several policemen were involved in the case,' the account said, adding: 'Wang Lijun asked them to write "heart attack" in the report. The police refused. Wang Lijun told Bo Xilai this. Bo was furious and put the police who refused into prison and tortured them.'
Describing the meeting between Mr Gu and Mr Heywood's wife Wang Lulu at a Chongqing cafe two days after the murder, the account says: 'Police cleared the cafe and stood armed outside the door. Gu wept. Eventually, Wang Lulu agreed they would not do an autopsy and accepted the conclusion that he had died from excessive drinking and to the cremation of the body.'
Accounts say a British diplomat, along with two Chinese policemen, attended Mr Heywood's cremation in Chongqing.
Bo Guagua was sent to the famous Harrow School where he was mentored by Neil Heywood
Mr Heywood's work for the Bo family is believed to have at least partly funded his comfortable lifestyle. Both children attend British-run Dulwich College in Beijing, where annual fees are about £20,000 per child.
The scandal comes just months before a new president and premier take power in China, a process that takes places in stages from October onwards and which the Communist Party wants to be smooth and orderly.
Mr Bo's fall, however, has triggered the most intense in-fighting in decades as his former allies are sidelined and rival candidates jostle for the seat Mr Bo was expected to take on the Politburo Standing Committee that effectively runs China.
The downfall of Mr Bo and the arrest of his wife have meanwhile left China on edge, with many people convinced he is the victim of a set-up and supporters in Dalian and Chongqing braced for a feared round-up of his former comrades.
When rush-hour traffic ground to a halt in Dalian on Friday afternoon, rumours swept the city that investigators from Beijing had sealed off roads to arrest business associates of the disgraced former mayor.
'Whenever someone gets too popular in China, the government finds a way of bringing him down,' a taxi driver said. And a teacher who has worked in Dalian for four years said: 'Everyone thinks the government was behind this. They wanted to cut down the tall poppy.'
Advertising executive Qiu Tian, 37, said: 'Bo was arrogant and made a lot of enemies. But he did a lot of good for Dalian and we miss him.'
Online forums also reflect an instinctive suspicion of the official line on Mr Heywood's death.
'This is nothing to do with getting justice for the Englishman's family,' one person wrote. 'It's about making sure the political career of Bo Xilai is dead.'
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