China's top female forensic doctor rejects official cause of Heywood death

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 September, 2012, 1:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 September, 2012, 8:26pm


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In a long blog post published last night, Wang Xuemei, one of China's top forensic doctors with the Supreme People's Procuratorate, thoroughly dismisses the official cause of Neil Heywood's death late last year.

Initially attributed to alcohol poisoning, Heywood's death was later recast as the result of cyanide poisoning based on evidence provided by Wang Lijun

Wang starts by expressing "deep regret" over nearly every stage in Heywood's murder trial, from the investigation to the charges brought against Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun as well as their ultimate guilty verdict, including the evidence relied upon to build the case against them.

"A serious lack of evidence exists," Wang writes, "to conclude that Neil Heywood died of cyanide poisoning, as well as any supporting scientific basis." 

"What I find extremely terrifying," she continues, is that missing in both the secret recording of Gu's confession to the murder and the court testimony provided by Gu and Zhang themselves, she claims, is any indication that Gu and Zhang witnessed a death that involved the characteristics of cyanide poisoning: the scream reflex that occurs during "lightning-fast" asphyxia, body spasms which would have been apparent as the cyanide reached Heywood's central nervous system, stupour that would have followed, or eventual cardiopulmonary arrest just prior to his death.

"As everyone knows, hemiglobincyanide will form in the corpse of someone poisoned with cyanide, giving both their hypostasis and blood an unusually bright red colour...Any forensic doctor in China would have immediately spotted something that out of the ordinary."

Local forensic officers, she alleges, either didn't do a toxicology screening - which includes the very easy test for cyanide as standard practice - before Heywood's body was cremated, but in all likelihood did conduct one and found no trace of cyanide and are complicit in covering up his true cause of death.

If the latter scenario is the case, she asks, then why has the name of the forensic doctor who made the initial call of death by alcohol poisoning been kept from the public even after the murder was exposed and four local high-ranking police officers were convicted for their roles in covering up the murder? As it stands, Wang writes, "there exists no proof that Heywood's corpse exhibited any of the colour changes which result from cyanide poisoning".

There is, of course, the sample of Heywood's heart tissue on which most of the cyanide theory rests, which Wang Lijun kept in his possession for three months following the murder but towards which Wang harbours serious doubts for the reason given above.

Wang says she doesn't doubt that Gu had clear motive to kill Heywood. It's likely Gu tried, Wang writes, and believes she succeeded in poisoning him, but in her professional opinion posits that whatever it was Gu fed to Heywood was far less toxic than cyanide. Given how little information has been made public regarding the whole saga, it's just as possible that Heywood was suffocated using something soft enough to leave no marks - or the precise kind of marks that could plausibly indicate that cyanide was used. As long as no autopsy was performed, a radically different truth could easily have been concocted following Heywood's cremation, giving Wang Lijun's cryptic message to Gu ("[Heywood] is up in smoke, on his way back to the West") an alternate interpretation.

Wang spends the second half of her post analysing Gu's mental condition, but strongly implies that Gu had been manipulated by Wang Lijun for quite some time. The point comes at the very end of her post with a standalone question:

Who had the most to gain from Neil Heywood's death?