By Tom Phillips
The wife of a former leading Chinese politician has admitted to murdering a British businessman, blaming her actions on a “mental breakdown” while addicted to “hypnotic drugs,” Chinese state media has claimed.
Gu Kailai, who apologized for causing the “nightmare,” also attempted to make Neil Heywood’s alleged murder look like a drug overdose, according to the most detailed account yet of the scandal that has shaken the country’s leadership.
In a series of dispatches issued in the early hours of Saturday morning local time, state-run news agency Xinhua painted a dramatic and disturbing picture of Heywood’s death in a Chinese hotel room last November and the events leading up to his alleged murder.
The reports, apparently based on evidence given during this week’s trial of Gu and her family aide Zhang Xiaojun at Hefei’s Criminal Courtroom One, offer a blow-by-blow account of Heywood’s final hours. According to the reports, Heywood first met the family of Gu, who is the wife of the disgraced politician Bo Xilai, in 2005 while their son, Bo Guagua, was studying in the U.K.
The court was told that Gu, 53, had plotted Heywood’s execution after becoming incensed by threats he allegedly made to “destroy” her son during an “escalating” dispute over a “land project.” Unverifiable reports also stated that Heywood had “locked up” Bo Guagua, the 24-year-old son, at a “residence in England.”
“It was real action that was taking place,” Gu told the court, explaining that she had decided to eliminate the 41-year-old Old Harrovian because she feared for her son’s safety. “I must fight to my death to stop the craziness of Neil Heywood,” Gu said she had concluded.
On November 12, 2011, Gu began to hatch her plan, according to Xinhua’s version of events. She instructed Zhang, a former bodyguard of her father, to invite Heywood to Chongqing where she planned to poison him with cyanide she had already acquired.
The following day, Heywood flew from Beijing to Chongqing and checked into room 1605 of the Lucky Holiday Hotel, the court was told.
At around 9 p.m. that evening, Gu and Zhang arrived at the hotel and Gu began drinking “wine and tea” with the man she was about to poison. Her assistant waited outside.
“Heywood became drunk and fell in the hotel bathroom,” the Xinhua report claimed. Zhang was then called into the room and carried Heywood to the bedroom, placing him on the bed while Gu attempted to stage an overdose by throwing prescription drugs on the ground.
“She scattered the capsulated drugs on the hotel floor, making it seem as though Heywood had taken the drugs,” Xinhua reported.
Zhang told the court that Gu then “poured cyanide compound into a small soy-sauce container… mixed it with water and walked to the left side of the bed. She dripped the toxic mixture into Heywood’s mouth as she was talking to him.”
Finally, Gu and her “accomplice” made their exit, hanging a “Do Not Disturb” sign on Heywood’s door and instructing waiters to “leave the guest alone.” Heywood’s corpse was only discovered two days later, the court heard.
Gu, who could face the death penalty, reportedly said she would “accept and calmly face any sentence.”
“This case has produced great losses to the party and the country, for which I ought to shoulder the responsibility, and I will never feel at ease,” she said, according to Xinhua.
“This case has been like a huge stone weighing on me for more than half a year. What a nightmare.”
The lurid details of Heywood’s demise emerged hours after four senior policemen “confessed” to an audacious attempt to conceal Gu’s role in the alleged murder, duping the Briton’s family into believing he had died an accidental death and “persuading” them to cremate his body without an autopsy.
A court representative yesterday said the men had conspired to cover-up Heywood's murder by faking an investigation and falsely claiming he had died of overconsumption of alcohol.
However, The Daily Telegraph has also learned that Gu’s lawyers claimed a mysterious “third individual” may have been involved in Heywood’s murder.
A source who attended the trial, and has detailed knowledge of the case, said that while Gu’s defense lawyers accepted she “attempted” to poison Heywood, the poison could not have caused his death since a government test found a “nonlethal dose” in a sample of Heywood’s blood.
The defense lawyer Jiang Min suggested a “third party or parties” may have subsequently taken Heywood’s life after Gu and Zhang left the hotel.
The source said lawyers claimed police found Heywood’s body in a different position to that in which it was left by Gu and Zhang and that the room’s window was found open, suggesting a third individual may have used it to gain entry to the room.
Those details and others relayed to the Telegraph by people present at the trial—including claims Gu had plotted to frame Heywood as a drug trafficker and have him shot—were absent from Xinhua’s dispatch.
But the state-controlled news agency described in detail the alleged “mental disorders” that Gu had supposedly suffered from in the lead-up to Heywood’s poisoning.
Testimony provided by the Shanghai Mental Health Center claimed that Gu “had been treated for chronic insomnia, anxiety, depression, and paranoia in the past.”
Gu had used “antidepressants and sedative hypnotic drugs” and had “developed a certain degree of physical and psychological dependence on sedative hypnotic drugs, which resulted in mental disorders.” But prosecutors argued Gu “had a clear goal and a practical motive” for the crime as well as “an intact ability to identify the nature and consequences of this alleged criminal behavior.”
While Gu had demonstrated “a weakened ability to control herself” she should bear “full criminal responsibility,” the court was told, according to Xinhua.