Mysteries surrounding Heywood murder begin to unfold

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2012, 12:34pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2012, 5:56pm

An investigative report about China’s most infamous former police officer Wang Lijun by China’s Southern Metropolis Weekly magazine has answered some questions relating to the murder of British businessmen Neil Heywood, whose death precipitated the downfall of China's once powerful and ambitious politician Bo Xilai.

Wang Lijun, Gu Kailai, Xu Ming  partners in crime

Wang Lijun, then police chief of Jinzhou, Laioning province, met Gu Kailai, Bo’s wife, in 2007 through business tycoon Xu Ming. Xu, a close associate of Bo, is believed to have amassed his wealth with Bo's help.

After he transferred to Chongqing in 2008, Wang helped Gu manage her family affairs. According to Gu, Wang was not only the head of Gu’s personal medical team, but was also responsible for the security of her son, Bo Guagua, who was studying in the US.

When a “threat” from Neil Heywood surfaced in 2011, Gu turned to Wang for help.

In an e-mail to Bo Guaggua, Heywood demanded to be paid £14 million for a Chongqing lands project he had worked on. Bo Guagua refused to pay and failed to reach any agreement with Heywood.

In a follow-up e-mail Heywood wrote, “If your actions are not consistent with your words, you will face the consequence of your own deeds.”

This message worried Gu, who believed Heywood would destroy Guagua “the same way the British and the French troops had destroyed the Old Summer Palace in Beijing”.

Gu apparently panicked and urged Wang to find a solution. But after looking into the e-mail exchanges between Guagua and Heywood, Wang concluded there was no real threat.

This failed to appease Gu who later complained to Xu Ming, who attempted to solve the problem by talking Wang into taking further action.

When Wang told Xu that Heywood “was a foreigner and thus not easy to control”, Xu said, “I heard Neil takes and deals drugs.”

It was at this point that Wang saw a possible solution.

On November 12, 2011, Xu arranged a call to be made to Chongqing’s police hotline, reporting Heywood’s role in a drug dealing network in Southwestern China. As requested by Wang, Xu also made sure a text message reporting Heywood’s “crimes” was sent to Wang’s mobile phone.

Wang believed this would give him enough evidence to take action against Heywood.

"I am a hero getting rid of an evil for the people"

After careful planning and preparation, Gu invited Heywood to Chongqing on November 13. The plan was to feed him poison and fake a drug overdose.

But on the evening of the 13th, when Gu was scheduled to meet Heywood at his hotel, she got cold feet.

Wang then drove to Gu’s residence and urged her to stick to the plan, according to Gu.

“I wasn’t feeling well, and I told him [Wang] I didn’t want to go,” said Gu. “He said it can’t be so.”

Twenty minutes later, Wang ordered the driver to get ready to leave. “Gua mom [the nickname Wang gave Gu] is meeting guests,” he said.

Gu had asked Zhang Xiaojun, her family’s personal assistant, to accompany her and bring Ecstasy and Ice with him.

Later that evening, Gu gave Heywood tea laced with poison and left drugs around the room to make it appear Heywood was a drug user.

In a conversation with Xu afterwards, Gu said she had put on tight clothes that evening and filled her pockets with poison.

Gu also told Xu that Heywood was a spy and she was "getting rid of an evil for the people".

She called herself a “hero,” and compared herself to “the Maid of Orléans”, said Xu.

A deteriorating relationship led to Wang's flight

The once-close relationship between Wang and Gu slowly started to deteriorate after Heywood’s death, despite the successful murder and careful police cover-ups ordered by Wang.

In an attempt to protect himself, Wang secretly recorded a confession made by Gu at his office on November 14.

He also oversaw the “investigation” of Heywood’s death and approved the official conclusion that he had died from excessive drinking.

After Heywood’s body was cremated in Chongqing on November 18, Wang called Gu from a government security phone line, claiming Heywood had “become smoke and ashes, and gone to the west”.

Meanwhile, mistrust started to build between the two.

When Wang went on a business trip to Beijing, Gu ordered Zhang Xiaojun to “raid” Wang’s office, taking away shoes, clothes, perfume, cigarettes, wine, watches and gold.

Gu later told Wang she was simply trying to protect him from the Central Discipline Committee by hiding his possessions. Wang didn’t believe her.

By the end of December, Gu had also replaced four of Wang’s personal assistants.

Fearing further retaliations from Gu, Wang confronted Bo Xilai and accused Gu of “four major offences”: killing Neil Heywood; illegally searching the then Chongqing’s secretary general of municipal party committee’s home and office; ordering Wang to arrest Gu's sister Gu Wangning; and asking Wang to arrest Bo's son from his first marriage, Li Wangzhi.

Wang told Bo he was working on these requests from Gu and Bo seemed satisfied, according to Xu who later heard this from Wang.

But Bo’s attitude changed the following day. In a meeting with Wang and Guo Weiguo, then Chongqing’s deputy police chief, Bo accused Wang of framing Gu Kailai. The conflict apparently escalated when Bo slapped Wang in the face in front of Guo and other officials.

Wang realised he had made a mistake and wrote Gu a letter of apology. But it was too late.

Wang was fired from his post as Chongqing’s police chief by Bo on February 2, 2012.

According to sources, Gu met Wang at his office after he was demoted on February 4. After a long talk, they had lunch at the government cafeteria where Gu was heard crying.

It was around the same time that another three officials working closely with Wang were wrongfully arrested, according to Xinhua.

On February 6, Wang went to the US consulate in Chengdu where he spent the night. It was this move, also known as the “Wang Lijun incident”, that set off a chain of events that rocked the Chinese leadership in 2012.

Go here for our first look at the investigative report