Heywood 'revelations' raise many questions
- 6 November 2012
- From the section China
Ever since Neil Heywood's death hit the headlines, there has been speculation in Beijing about his possible ties to Britain's intelligence services.
That he had "spy links" is, in many ways no surprise. It would have been more surprising if MI6 had not bothered to talk to him.
His business dealings with Bo Xilai's family would have been of definite interest to British intelligence.
But it seems that while "useful", Neil Heywood was not a particularly high-profile source.
It is significant that he was never "tasked" with discovering any specific information.
He seems to have been the sort of person an intelligence officer would chat to every now and again, trying to glean something interesting, not more than that.
So in no sense was Neil Heywood a spy himself.
But there are questions that arise.
The BBC understands that Gu Kailai, who murdered Neil Heywood in Chongqing, told the city's police chief that the man she had killed was "a spy".
Why did she think so? Did it affect her motive? Importantly too, did China's authorities know there was a British informant close to a Politburo member?
And finally, when did MI6 discover that their "source" had died in Chongqing? It took British diplomats three months to ask China to investigate the death which had been put down to a "heart attack" or "excessive alcohol".
Did the intelligence services suspect foul play earlier given Neil Heywood's connections?
Should they have alerted other parts of the British government that a British citizen they had used as an informant had died in circumstances that may be suspicious?