Bo Xilai scandal: Accounts of evidence from Heywood murder trial
- 10 August 2012
- From the section Asia
The one-day trial in China of Gu Kailai for the murder of UK businessman Neil Heywood has ended, although no verdict has yet been announced.
No foreign media were allowed into the courtroom. But more detail of the evidence presented has emerged from some of those who attended and who then recounted what they had heard on Chinese blog sites, in Chinese language media and in a report carried by the Washington Post.
One court official did issue a statement after Thursday's proceedings in the city of Hefei but the BBC cannot independently verify the reports from the other media outlets.
One of the observers, Zhao Xiangcha, published his account of the trial online, stressing he was writing from memory because writing materials, "even a pencil", had been banned from the courtroom.
The court official said Ms Gu had become convinced Mr Heywood was threatening the personal safety of her son, Bo Guagua, over a business dispute.
According to Mr Zhao's account, the two men had become acquainted in 2003. In 2005, Ms Gu introduced Mr Heywood to two Chinese state companies planning property developments.
According to the Washington Post's unnamed courtroom observer, Mr Heywood sent a threatening email on 10 November last year to Bo Guagua, who was then attending Harvard University.
Mr Heywood was said to be upset over the failure of one of the property development projects, valued at £130m ($200m), and was demanding a 10% fee.
Mr Zhao quotes a figure of £140m for this deal. The trial, he writes, heard that Bo Guagua had agreed in emails that his family should take some responsibility but no amount was agreed.
The Washington Post's observer says a copy of the English-language email was displayed in court together with a Chinese translation.
Mr Heywood is said to have warned Bo Guagua in the email that if he did not pay the money, he would be "destroyed", the US newspaper's source continues.
However, the son, who is believed to be still in the US since graduating, has told Reuters news agency there was no such deal.
"I cannot comment on any of the details [of the letter], but I can disclose that there is no such thing as either possessing or transferring £130m," he said in an email published by the news agency on Friday.
According to the Post's courtroom observer, the prosecution said that Bo Guagua's mother - who apparently did not use email - had been informed of the threatening communication by her aide, Zhang Xiaojun.
The court official said Ms Gu "had weaker self-control than normal people when she committed the crime".
While the official did not elaborate, the defendant is said elsewhere to have a history of depression.
In his account of the trial, Mr Zhao says Ms Gu initially planned to get rid of Mr Heywood by having him framed for drug-trafficking.
Mr Heywood would have been lured to Chongqing, the south-western city which served as her husband's power base at the time, and would have been shot dead while allegedly resisting arrest.
Chongqing's then chief of police, Wang Lijun - her husband's right-hand man - was involved in this plan initially but later pulled out, Mr Zhao records.
Ms Gu's aide, Mr Zhang, met Mr Heywood in the capital, Beijing, and escorted him to Chongqing for a meeting at a hotel villa with Ms Gu on 13 November.
From the account of the Post's courtroom observer, quoting the prosecution, Ms Gu prepared a poisoned drink using rat poison containing cyanide.
It was alleged that she had had a local party official obtain the poison from a local vendor, who was also later arrested, the Post's courtroom observer says.
Mr Zhao records that Ms Gu discussed her new murder plot with Police Chief Wang on the afternoon of 13 November.
The poisoned drink was entrusted to her aide, Mr Zhang, to bring to the hotel, the court official said in his statement. Ms Gu ordered her driver to buy a bottle of whisky, writes Mr Zhao.
At their meeting in a villa of the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel, Mr Heywood and Ms Gu drank the whisky, sources concur.
Mr Heywood got drunk and became ill, whereupon Ms Gu phoned for Mr Zhang to come into the villa, the Post's source says.
"When Zhang entered, Heywood, who had fallen down, vomited, soiling Zhang's shirt, and then Heywood asked for water," the source says, quoting the prosecution.
"Zhang helped Heywood into bed, Gu poured the poison mixed with water into his mouth and they left."
In his version of the evidence presented to the court, Mr Zhao writes: "Neil Heywood, thrown up, barely conscious.
"Zhang Xiaojun entered the room, gave the bottle of poison to Gu Kailai, and helped Neil Heywood into bed from the toilet.
"As Neil Heywood asked for water, Gu Kailai fed him with the poison. Then she sprayed some drugs in the room so that people might think Neil Heywood was a drug trafficker."
When Ms Gu and Mr Zhang had established Mr Heywood no longer had a pulse, they left the room, hung a "do not disturb" sign and told [officials] at the hotel that he was drunk," Mr Zhao adds.
According to the court official who briefed reporters after the trial, both Ms Gu and Mr Zhang "did not raise objections to the accusations of intentional homicide".
Both Mr Zhao and the Washington Post's source say Ms Gu confessed to Mr Wang the day after the murder, 14 November.
The Chongqing police chief is said to have secretly recorded their conversation.
Mr Heywood's body was not discovered by hotel staff until 15 November, when they called the police, Mr Zhao records. The police chief, he writes, ordered forensic evidence to be gathered.
However, no action appears to have been taken against Ms Gu until April.
By that time Mr Wang had fallen out with Bo Xilai and had been arrested by Chinese security agents after contacting a US consulate in an apparent attempt to expose the cover-up of the murder.
Investigators initially concluded that Mr Heywood had died of a heart attack and no post-mortem examination was performed on his body, which was cremated.
However, blood samples were taken from his heart, the Post's courtroom observer quotes the prosecution as saying.
Police laboratories in Chongqing tested the blood twice for traces of poison but the results were negative, the prosecution reportedly said.
However, a scientist from China's ministry of public security told the trial he had tested the blood again in April and his analysis had confirmed the presence of poison, the Washington Post's source records.