Can Chinese officials prove Neil Heywood was murdered, and what is known of his relationship with Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai?
Can the Chinese authorities prove Neil Heywood was murdered?
State media says Gu Kailai, the wife of Bo Xilai, and Zhang Xiaojun, who worked in the family's home, are "highly suspected" of Heywood's murder. But some have suggested that Bo's opponents could be seeking to discredit him, and the source of the allegation is assumed to be Bo's former ally and police chief Wang Lijun, who reportedly faced a corruption inquiry. There are suggestions he sought to build a case against Gu to ensure Bo protected him, but only succeeded in angering his patron instead. Before the news of Gu's detention, relatives said Heywood died of a heart attack and dismissed suggestions of foul play. The Briton's body was cremated without an autopsy, and the cause of death remains unknown.
What evidence may exist of murder?Police believe Heywood was killed by a poisoned drink, according to sources quoted by Reuters; others have suggested cyanide was used. But without a body, any case will rely heavily on the evidence of witnesses who will have spent weeks or months in custody in unknown conditions and may hope that testifying against others could win them more lenient treatment. Suspects can be questioned without a lawyer and allegations of abuse are rife in the Chinese criminal system.
The case against Gu appears particularly tricky, since she is not thought to have been present when Heywood died. Even establishing a motive may be hard: sources said police believed Gu was afraid that Heywood would expose her overseas assets, but said there was no paper trail.
What do we know about Heywood's relationship with Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai?Heywood said he met the family while living in the northern city of Dalian, where Bo was then a senior leader, after writing to several politicians to introduce himself. He helped firms set up meetings with Bo and talked of helping the couple's son, Bo Guagua, to attend his old school, Harrow.
Reuters sources say Heywood, who was married, became a close friend of Gu but was not romantically involved with her. They suggest that the relationship turned sour in late 2011 – others think it frayed about a year earlier – when, it is suspected, Gu asked Heywood to help her move money abroad and he wanted a larger share than she had anticipated. The Wall Street Journal reported that he told one friend he had lodged details of the family's overseas investments with a British lawyer as an "insurance policy", but it is not clear if such a document ever existed. Others have suggested he was sanguine about a cooling in relations. State media have said only that Gu and Heywood had a conflict over unspecified economic interests.
Why was Heywood in Chongqing?Heywood lived in Beijing, but the Wall Street Journal said he told a friend the day before his death that he was "in trouble" and had been summoned to the south-western city by associates of Gu. He is believed to have flown to Chongqing on 12 November and to have died on 14 or 15 November. British officials were alerted on 16 November.
Source : The Guardian