Gu Kailai

Forensic expert rejects cyanide explanation for Heywood's death

Outspoken Wang Xuemei casts doubt in her blog on official statement about cyanide poisoning

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 3:08am


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A high-profile forensic expert with the mainland's top prosecutorial body has publicly challenged the official account of the cause of death of British businessman Neil Heywood, whose murder triggered the country's biggest political scandal in two decades.

Wang Xuemei , a forensic medical expert with the Supreme People's Procuratorate, wrote on her blog on Wednesday that she questioned whether Heywood had been poisoned by cyanide, as announced after the trial of Gu Kailai , who was given a suspended death sentence in August for his murder. Gu is the wife of disgraced former Chongqing Communist Party boss Bo Xilai .

Wang told the South China Morning Post yesterday that although she had no access to the evidence presented in court, she found the official statement on Heywood's death illogical based on years of forensic experience. The 56-year-old is deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Association of Forensic Medicine.

"I feel very pained, upset and scared that our court believed the theory [Heywood] was poisoned with cyanide," she wrote, arguing that if Heywood had indeed been killed by cyanide, the forensic experts sent to the scene would have immediately noticed obvious symptoms such as discolouration of the corpse or an unusual bright red colour of heart blood samples, making it impossible for four subordinates of Wang Lijun , Chongqing's then police chief, to disguise it as death caused by excessive drinking.

She argued that either the forensic experts had colluded with Wang's subordinates or Heywood had not been killed by cyanide. As no experts were charged with covering up, she was inclined to rule out the former. She also questioned why such symptoms were not mentioned in the trials of Gu or Wang.

"In my professional view, that [conclusion of the cause of death] is very problematic," she said. Wang is famously outspoken, but it remains very rare for an expert to publicly challenge the governmen in such a sensitive case.

Wang said she did not care. "Our profession deals with matters of life and death … Political sensitivity means nothing to me."

In her blog, she suggested that Heywood could have been suffocated. The posting was deleted by censors within hours.