Lawyer to stand trial over murder of Englishman


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The Independent Online

The most lurid tale of money, passion and power politics in contemporary China reached a turning point yesterday when the Xinhua news agency reported that Gu Kailai, property tycoon, high-flying lawyer and wife of a disgraced politician, is to stand trial for the murder of Neil Heywood, an English businessman.

The corpse of Mr Heywood, 41, who was married to a Chinese woman and had lived in China for many years, was found on 14 November 2011 at the Nanshan Lijing hotel near the city of Chongqing, where Ms Gu's husband, Bo Xilai, held power. The Chinese authorities told his family he had had a heart attack; British consular authorities were told he had died from alcoholic poisoning. His body was cremated the next day, without an autopsy.

Then on 6 February, Wang Lijun, the deputy chief of police of Chongqing, drove to the city of Chengdu, burst into the American consulate and demanded asylum, claiming that his life was in danger. The Americans released him to the authorities in Beijing for questioning, and he revealed that he suspected Ms Gu of involvement in the murder of Mr Heywood. When he had told his suspicions to his boss, the latter flew into a rage, provoking Mr Wang's flight.

Soon after Mr Wang's flight, Mr Bo was sacked from his post for unspecified violations of discipline, and Ms Gu and an aide called Zhang Xiaojun, her alleged accomplice, were arrested. Now after three months Ms Gu and Mr Zhang have been charged with poisoning Mr Heywood after what the charge sheet describes as a falling-out with Mr Heywood over money, one which Ms Gu feared could threaten her interests and those of her son, Bo Guagua. "The facts of the two defendants' crime are clear," ran the Xinhua report, "and the evidence is irrefutable and substantial. Therefore, the two defendants should be charged with intentional homicide." No date has been announced for the trial.

Mr Bo is a child of the aristocracy of the Communist Party. In Chongqing he threw himself into transforming the city, including a campaign of public housing which came close to bankrupting the city.