Gu Kailai poured poison into Heywood's mouth
Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced Politburo member Bo Xilai, murdered a British business associate by pouring poison into his mouth after he had become drunk and vomited, a court official said yesterday after China's most sensational criminal trial in decades.
The defendants, Gu and family aide Zhang Xiaojun , did not contest the murder charges brought against them in the poisoning death of Neil Heywood, Tang Yigan , vice-president of the Hefei Intermediate People's Court, told reporters yesterday afternoon in Anhui's provincial capital, where the trial was held.
The hearing was adjourned and the court would choose another day to deliver its verdict, he said.
The trial, which started at 8.30am and lasted for six hours, promised to be the climax of China's gravest political crisis in more than two decades and attracted widespread international interest. About 200 mainland and overseas reporters flocked to Hefei, even though the hearing was only open to selected state media.
A 50-year-old Hefei businessman who was chosen to sit in on yesterday's hearing as a 'public' representative told the South China Morning Post that Gu said she believed the court would give her a fair sentence. Her husband, former Chongqing party chief Bo, was not mentioned throughout the trial, he said.
Tang said the prosecution told the court that Gu believed Heywood posed a threat to the safety of her son, Bo Guagua , after a financial dispute with the Briton, and she decided to kill him. She arranged for Chongqing municipal officials and Zhang to invite Heywood to fly from Beijing to Chongqing.
'On the evening of November 13, 2011, Bogu Kailai went to Heywood when he was staying in Room 1605 at Building No16 of the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel and drank alcoholic drinks and tea with him,' Tang read from a speech, using Gu's name in her passport. 'After Heywood became drunk, vomited and asked for a drink of water, she poured a poison into his mouth that had been prepared beforehand and that she had given to Zhang Xiaojun to bring along, causing Heywood's death.'
Prosecutors presented 'relevant evidence' in court and 'expert witnesses' also testified, before the prosecution concluded that Gu and Zhang's actions violated Article 232 of the Criminal Code, and they should be prosecuted for the crime of intentional homicide.
'This case involved a joint offence, with Bogu Kailai as the principal offender and Zhang Xiaojun as the accomplice,' Tang quoted the prosecution as saying.
Gu and Zhang 'did not raise objections to the facts of the crime and the intentional homicide charge', Tang said, adding Gu was in 'good physical condition and was emotionally stable' during the hearing.
Beijing-based lawyer Li Fangping said Gu, a lawyer, made a tactical decision not to dispute the murder charge. 'It can be one of the mitigating grounds,' he said. 'The court will consider this factor when handing down the sentence.'
Two government-appointed lawyers for Gu argued that her 'ability to control [her] behaviour' was weaker than a normal person when committing the crime, and that the victim, Heywood, bore 'responsibility' in the initiation of the case. They also said Gu had significantly made up for her wrongdoing by 'reporting crimes committed by others' and, thus, merited consideration when the court deliberated her sentence.
Legal experts say Gu's sentence is expected to range from 15 years' jail to a suspended death penalty.
Chongqing University law professor Chen Zhonglin said it would be a major mitigating factor if it was proven Gu had a mental problem while performing the poisoning.
Beijing-based lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said Gu was likely to be jailed for life or receive a suspended death sentence. 'If it is proven that she had no ability to control herself [when committing the crime] and reported someone else to the authorities to help the investigation of the crime, the court is very unlikely to deliver a death sentence,' Liu said.
Tang said more than 140 people attended the hearing, including friends and relatives of Gu, Zhang and Heywood, British consular officials, journalists, National People's Congress deputies, Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference members and the public.