Wife of China’s Bo Xilai on trial for murder of British businessman
Gu Kailai, the wife of one of China’s most senior political leaders, has been charged with the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
Mrs Gu is due to stand trial next Thursday, lawyers say.
In a scandal that has rocked Chinese politics, Gu Kailai, 53, wife of Bo Xilai, the former party secretary of Chongqing and a member of the Communist party’s Politburo, faces the death penalty after being formally accused of poisoning the 41-year old Heywood with cyanide.
Mr Heywood was found dead in a room at the Lucky Holiday Hotel in Chongqing last November.
Although the precise nature of Mr Heywood’s role with Mrs Gu and the Bo family have caused much speculation, it is alleged that he had been a member of their inner circle, and had shared close business contacts with the family.
Until last Thursdsay, it was understood that Mrs Gu, a former lawyer, had come into “conflict” with Mr Heywood over their “economic interests”. Yet recent sources now suggest that Mr Heywood had posed a significant threat to Mrs Gu’s 24-year old son, Bo Guagua.
According to The Telegraph, this change in narrative may be part of an effort to portray Mrs Gu, who has a history of mental illness, as paranoid and unstable; possibly a mitigating factor in her defence.
The trial follows the high-profile downfall of Mr Bo, who is under investigation for allegedly violating Communist Party rules, despite making his name tackling corruption in the south-western city of Chongqing.
Lawyers have previously told BBC Chinese that authorities may have concerns about the political influence Mr Bo and his family may still exert in Chongqing and whether that would affect a fair trial.