Photo: Sky News Screenshot
The trial of Gu Kailai for the murder of Neil Heywood is over — it lasted just 7 hours, and Gu offered no plea.While it can be assumed with relative certainty that Gu, the wife of former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, really did kill Heywood, we’re still a little in the dark about why she would choose to commit a crime that would throw family into disaster. Reports in Xinhua today claim that Gu says she suffered a “breakdown”, because her son, Bo Guagua, was “in danger” — but how did events get to stage?
There have previously been theories offered about a dispute about a huge money transfer, but official statements from the trial offered little detail.
Edward Wong and Andrew Jacobs of the New York Times have pieced together perhaps the most complete version of events told at the trial, using a post from someone in the courtroom found on Chinese social networking site renren.com and further telephone interviews with lawyers in the court room.
Here’s a basic timeline.
- Starting in 2003 Heywood helps Bo and Gu’s son, Bo Guagua, study in the UK. The two become close, and Heywood hoped this would help him with business ventures in China.
- In late 2007, Heywood entered into a Chongqing-based business venture after Bo becomes party chief in the city.
- The business fails due to political interference. Heywood demands $22 million dollars from Bo and Gu, which is 10% of the money he thought he would earn.
- He reportedly emails Gu saying he will “destroy” Bo Guagua if he does not get the money, and locks him in a residence in England.
- Gu decides she has to kill Heywood to deal with the problem. She attempts to enlist the help of Wang Lijun, a local police chief, who refused to help.
- On November 10th, 2011, an associate invites Heywood to fly from Beijing to Chongqing.
- On November 13th, Gu goes for dinner with Heywood. After the dinner she retires to a room with Heywood, and he gets extremely drunk. When he asks for water, she pours poison in his mouth.
- Heywood’s body is discovered on November 15th. Wang and his associates help cover up the crime, and the death is officially put down to excessive alcohol.
- On February 6th, Wang drives to the US consulate in Chengdu and tells diplomats about the murder. The international scandal begins.
This version of events seems to roughly ties with the closing confession from Gu published in a Xinhua story published today:
“This case has been like a huge stone weighing on me for more than half a year. What a nightmare. During those days last November, I suffered a mental breakdown after learning that my son was in jeopardy. The tragedy which was created by me was not only extended to Neil, but also to several families.”
The basic story — Gu killed Heywood because she suffered a “mental breakdown” after she threatened (and apparently imprisoned) her son over a money dispute.
The breakdown angle does make some sense, given reports we saw about Gu wearing a military uniform shortly after the murder (which apparently prompted some at the time to wonder about her mental health).
However, there are still a number of unresolved questions about the case. Tania Branigan of the Guardian pointed out a couple of days ago that friends of Heywood find the idea of him harming the younger Bo or drinking heavily extremely incongruous with the gentle, light-drinking Heywood they know. We also can’t help but wonder if the story about Heywood and Gu drinking whiskey together in a hotel room at 11pm may add some fuel to the persistent (though completely unsubstantiated) rumours of an affair.
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