Monday, August 12, 2013

Mother of Neil Heywood, murdered British businessman at heart of Bo Xilai case, breaks silence

British businessman Neil Heywood in Beijing in 2011.

British businessman Neil Heywood in Beijing in 2011. Photo: Reuters

Beijing: The mother of the murdered British businessman at the centre of China's worst political scandal in decades has broken her silence, urging authorities to show "decisiveness and compassion" to mitigate the consequences of her son's death on their family.

Ann Heywood said the murder of her son, Neil, in Chongqing in November 2011 had left his two children, now aged 8 and 12, "particularly vulnerable to the hurt and horror" of their father's murder, and had plunged them into financial insecurity.

Ms Heywood was "surprised and disappointed" with the lack of a full explanation or compensation 

"Until now, I have refused all requests from the media to comment on Neil's death, not wanting to cause unnecessary embarrassment to the Chinese authorities," she said in a statement published by the Wall Street Journal. "However, circumstances now compel me to break my silence.

Disgraced former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai has been indicted for corruption.

Disgraced former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai has been indicted for corruption. Photo: Reuters

"While struggling to come to terms with my own grief, my overriding concern has been for the security and well-being of Neil's two children."

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Gu Kailai, the wife of fallen Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai, was convicted of murdering Mr Heywood last year and was sentenced to a suspended death sentence.

News of Mr Heywood's death sparked a series of revelations about Mr Bo's family wealth and forced his dramatic fall while on the verge of joining China's political elite. China's leaders are understood to be anxious to settle the Bo Xilai affair, a troubling distraction in the lead up to the once-in-a-decade political transition.

Sympathisers of Bo's dynamic leadership style are also thought to represent an alternate vision for China's direction.

Mr Bo, the son of a revolutionary-era hero, now faces trial on charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power. In the trial, expected this month, the prosecution may claim Mr Bo suppressed information on his wife's involvement in Mr Heywood's murder.

Ms Heywood said she had been "surprised and disappointed" with the lack of a full explanation, or compensation, over her son's death.

"Given the circumstances of Neil's murder, I have been surprised and disappointed that, despite repeated discreet approaches to the Chinese authorities, there has been no substantive or practical response," she said.

"I hope and trust that the leaders of this great nation, which Neil loved and respected, will now show decisiveness and compassion, so as to mitigate the consequences of a terrible crime and to enable my family finally to achieve some kind of closure to our ongoing nightmare."

Mr Heywood was a close business associate of the Bo family and played a role in helping Mr Bo's son, Bo Guagua settle at Harrow, the exclusive British private school.

It has also emerged that he helped manage a multi-million dollar mansion in the French Riviera for the Bo family, which is expected to be key evidence in proving Bo Xilai accepted bribes.

Disagreements over the property, and perceived threats made against Bo Guagua, are thought to have been the motive for Gu Kailai to murder Mr Heywood.


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