Mother of murdered British businessman appeals to China for compensation

Ann Heywood says she has made no progress seeking compensation

British businessman Nick Heywood and Gu Kailai, who is serving a life sentence for his murder in November 2011. Photograph: Reuters

British businessman Nick Heywood and Gu Kailai, who is serving a life sentence for his murder in November 2011. Photograph: Reuters

Mon, Aug 12, 2013, 16:28

The mother of Neil Heywood, the Englishman poisoned by the wife of purged Communist Party leader Bo Xilai, has made a plea to the Chinese government for compensation for his death.

Mr Heywood’s killing over an “economic conflict” triggered then-Chongqing party boss and rising star Bo’s downfall and caused the worst political crisis in the ruling Communist Party in decades.

Mr Bo’s trial is expected to start in the eastern city of Jinan in coming days. He could be sentenced to death, although a lengthy jail sentence is more likely.

Mr Heywood was found dead in the southwest city of Chongqing in November 2011, and one year ago, Mr Bo’s wife Gu Kailai was sentenced to life in jail for his murder. The case also led to a corruption probe into Mr Bo, who is being charged with corruption, taking bribes and manipulating the law.

In China, it is the custom for a court to order a murderer to pay court-sanctioned compensation to the victim’s family. Mr Heywood’s Chinese widow, Lulu, lives in a villa on the outskirts of the capital, and is believed to have been seeking compensation from Ms Gu for herself and their two young children.

Ann Heywood, in a statement to the Wall Street Journal, said there had been no progress on seeking compensation.

“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. Now aged just 8 and 12, they are particularly vulnerable to the hurt and horror of their father’s murder and, since Neil was the family’s sole breadwinner, to uncertainty and insecurity, there being no financial provision for their future,” she wrote.

“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.

While there is no evidence the events are related, in recent weeks it was revealed that Mr Bo and Ms Gu’s son, Bo Guagua, would attend the expensive, elite Columbia Law School, which costs more than €60,000 a year.

The British embassy in Beijing said it had passed on the family’s concerns about a lack of progress on the compensation request to the Chinese government.

The original list of charges against Mr Bo also implicated him in helping to cover up Mr Heywood’s murder, but the legal indictment issued last month made no mention of that and it is unclear if the case will be included in his trial.

His trial marks the final stages of a dramatic fall for a man who just two years ago seemed destined to make the standing committee of the ruling politburo, but his showy style and his populist, leftist rule in the 30-million-strong metropolis of Chongqing set him on a collision course with a leadership in transition.

Chongqing’s police chief Wang Lijun, formerly Mr Bo’s right-hand man, has also been jailed over a subsequent cover-up.

A guilty verdict is almost certain, but as Mr Bo still has many allies within the party, he is unlikely to be executed. However, the case has cast a shadow over President Xi Jinping’s efforts to push economic reforms, and the leadership will seek a quick resolution.