Bo Xilai scandal: Gu Kailai jailed over Heywood murder
Posted on: 20 Aug 2012
The wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has been given a suspended death sentence for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
Gu Kailai did not contest charges at her one-day trial that she poisoned Mr Heywood in November 2011.
Suspended death sentences are usually commuted to life imprisonment in China.
Mr Bo, the former party chief in Chongqing, was once seen as a contender for a national leadership position in a top-level reshuffle later this year.
But he has not been seen in public since the investigation into Gu was announced.
The BBC's Damian Grammaticas, outside the court in Hefei, says Gu is expected to serve at least 14 years in prison.
Gu's aide, Zhang Xiaojun, was jailed for nine years for his part in the murder.
The verdict in China's most high-profile trial for years came early on Monday, inside a court ringed by security personnel.
Chinese state media has reported that during the 9 August trial - which was not open to all - Gu admitted she poisoned Neil Heywood in a hotel room in Chongqing, accompanied by her aide.
She said she had suffered a mental breakdown and that Mr Heywood had threatened her son amid a row over a property deal, state media said.
'This case has been like a huge stone weighing on me for more than half a year. What a nightmare,' she was quoted as saying.
Two British diplomats were allowed to attend the trial but foreign journalists were not present.
In a statement, the British Embassy in Beijing said its thoughts were with the family of Mr Heywood.
'We welcome the fact that the Chinese authorities have investigated the death of Neil Heywood, and tried those they identified as responsible,' the statement said.
'We consistently made clear to the Chinese authorities that we wanted to see the trials in this case conform to international human rights standards and for the death penalty not to be applied.'
A lawyer for the Heywood family said they respected the court's decision.
At a separate trial on 10 August, four senior police officers from Chongqing admitted charges of covering up evidence linking Gu to the murder, a court official said.
Mr Heywood's death was initially recorded as a heart attack.
The case came to light when Bo Xilai's deputy, police chief Wang Lijun, fled to the US consulate in February, reportedly with information connected to the case.
He has not been seen in public since then and state media says he is being investigated.
It is not yet known how the Communist Party plans to deal with Mr Bo, once seen as a powerful and ambitious high-flier.
Many analysts expected him to be promoted to the nine-strong politburo Standing Committee later in the year.
Seven committee members are due to retire, with a new generation of leaders to take their place at a party congress expected later this year.
But Mr Bo has been stripped of his official posts and is being investigated for 'discipline violations', state media reports say.