Bo Xilai

Heywood lawyer adds new twist ahead of Bo Xilai trial

He says media statement on compensation deal was not issued by family of murdered Briton

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 August, 2013, 9:10pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 5:51pm

A mainland lawyer representing the family of a British businessman whose murder triggered the downfall of former Politburo member Bo Xilai yesterday disputed the authenticity of a statement reportedly issued by the Briton's mother, three days ahead of Bo's open trial.

He Zhengsheng , the lawyer who said he was hired by Neil Heywood's family, wrote on his verified Sina Weibo account that the statement issued recently "in some individual media" on the compensation deal over the murder case "contradicted the existing facts and was misleading the public".

Last week The Wall Street Journal carried a statement it said was issued by Ann Heywood, Neil's mother, who urged the Chinese authorities to show "decisiveness and compassion" over the family's request to seek financial compensation to ensure the well-being of Neil Heywood's two children.

Ann, breaking her silence for the first time since her son was poisoned by Bo's wife, Gu Kailai , two years ago, said in the statement she was disappointed that the authorities had so far failed to give them any substantial response despite the family's "repeated discreet approaches".

"The statement was not released by the family of Neil Heywood," said He in a phone interview with the South China Morning Post, adding that negotiations between lawyers for Heywood and Gu were continuing.

Ali Bullock, a spokesman for The Wall Street Journal, said: " The Journal accurately reported the content of a statement released by Ann Heywood."

A source with knowledge of the Heywood family said Ann and Wang Lulu, Heywood's Chinese widow, had different opinions on how to handle the compensation process.

His statement added another twist to the trial of Bo, who will be tried on Thursday in Jinan for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

Observers believe the strong-willed politician may contest some of the charges. A mainland media source said Bo had not confessed to anything by late last week. "Bo has been calling for an open trial, at which he believes he could make his own defence."

A friend of the Bo clan said the family "would do something" if the verdict was harsher than they expected.

Heywood, who worked in China, was found dead in his Chongqing hotel room in November 2011. Authorities at the time announced the cause of death as alcohol poisoning.

However, soon after, Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun, fled to the US consulate in Chendu where he claimed that he had helped Bo's wife, Gu, kill Heywood. She was later found guilty of poisoning the businessman and long-time friend of the couple.