Heywood said to have been short of money

Sat, Apr 21, 2012, 01:00

NEIL HEYWOOD, the Briton whose suspected murder has led to China’s biggest political upheaval in decades, was short of funds, reports suggest, which prompted him to pressure the wife of ousted Chongqing Communist Party boss Bo Xilai for more money.

The businessman left his wife, Wang Lulu, and two children in a financially uncertain situation in China. A former business associate had to pay for the family’s air tickets to attend his funeral in London, Reuters reported yesterday, citing a family friend.

Mr Bo, who was bidding for a seat on the all-powerful standing committee of the politburo, has been sacked by the Communist Party, and the scandal has exposed deep divisions within the ruling elite of the party.

Police suspect Mr Heywood (41) was poisoned on the orders of Mr Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, and his demands for a bigger cut of a transfer of funds offshore would explain how a business transaction became a murder plot.

Mr Heywood left his family yuan savings equivalent to just a “five-digit” sum in British pounds.

Han Pingzao, a former correspondent for the People’s Daily in Chongqing, said police in Chongqing knew Mr Heywood had been murdered back in November, but there was a cover-up because it was linked to Mr Bo and Ms Gu.

Mr Heywood was found dead in a hotel in Chongqing on November 15th and authorities said he had died of a heart attack after drinking too much alcohol.

However, Mr Han told the BBC that police at the crime scene realised Mr Heywood had been murdered and they panicked after the case was linked to Mr Bo. “They were terrified of the politician.”

Wang Lijun, Mr Bo’s protege and police chief in Chongqing, whose trip to the US consulate in Chengdu to seek asylum started the saga, told his boss he believed Ms Gu was involved in the murder.

“Bo Xilai was shocked when he heard the details. He started sweating profusely,” said Mr Han.

More details are emerging about Mr Heywood. He drove a Jaguar with the licence plate “N007W3”, having requested the 007 number because of his love of James Bond. This, however, does not support the theory that he may have been a spy himself.