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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Poisoner - She is the second wife of former Politburo member Bo Xilai
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 14, 2011
Date of arrest: April 10, 2012
Date of birth: November 15, 1958
Victim profile: Neil Heywood (British businessman)
Method of murder: Poisoning
Location: Chongqing, Sichuan province, China
Status: Sentenced to a suspended death sentence (which is normally commuted to a life sentence after two years) on August 20, 2012
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Gu Kailai (born 15 November 1958) is a Chinese lawyer and businesswoman. She is the second wife of former Politburo member Bo Xilai, one of China's most influential politicians until he was stripped of his offices in 2012. In August 2012, Gu was convicted of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood and was given a suspended death sentence.


Gu is the youngest of five daughters of General Gu Jingsheng, a prominent revolutionary in the years before the Chinese Communist Party took power. General Gu held various government positions during early Communist rule but was imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution. Gu Kailai herself was also punished, being forced to work in a butcher shop and a textile factory.

Gu met Bo Xilai in 1984 while on a field trip looking into environmental art in Jin County, Liaoning, where he was the Communist Party secretary. The couple have one son, Bo Guagua, who studied at Harrow School, Balliol College, Oxford, and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Comments by her husband and son

In 2009, her son talked about her to a Chinese news media:“Dad often talks about my mother with me, he feels that she is very great, thoughtful, creative, can do anything to the best. She had a very successful law firm, to avoid suspicion, she decided to quit at the peak of her career. Dad said, in fact, this is not only her personal loss, it is also a career's loss. He even said that, if he was stepping down to support my mother, she could have done even better! After she quit, she was living a hermit's life, didn't go to any social events, dad sometimes asked her to attend social activities, she even refused. I can totally understand her, she doesn't want to live under dad's shadow, and lost herself. Now she reads and does academic researches all day, studies "comparative culture".

In March of 2012, her husband told the Chinese News Media, "my wife Kailai....she was a very successful lawyer twenty years ago, but she was afraid that people might spread rumors, so she closed her very busy law firm. Over the years, she only reads books, engages in some art activities, does house chores, accompanies me quietly."


Gu Kailai gained a degree in law and then a masters in international politics from Peking University. She went on to become an accomplished lawyer founding the Kailai law firm in Beijing. In the course of her career, she was involved in several high-profile cases, and is suggested to have been the first Chinese lawyer to win a civil suit in the United States, where she represented several Dalian-area companies involved in a dispute in Mobile, Alabama. She is also the author of several books.

Views on justice systems

After visiting the United States, Kailai ridiculed the U.S. justice system as inept, writing “They can level charges against dogs and a court can even convict a husband of raping his wife,” she wrote. Kailai wrote that, “We don’t play with words and we adhere to the principle of ‘based on facts,’...You will be arrested, sentenced and executed as long as we determine that you killed someone."

Murder investigation

In March 2012, Gu became embroiled in a national scandal after her husband's deputy, Wang Lijun, apparently sought refuge at the U.S. consulate in Chengdu. It was rumored that Wang presented evidence of a corruption scandal, whereby Bo sought to impede a corruption investigation against Gu. Specifically, Wang stated that Gu had been involved in a business dispute with British businessman Neil Heywood, who died in Chongqing under disputed circumstances; Wang alleged he had been poisoned. The Wall Street Journal reported that Wang may have fallen out of favor with Bo for discussing the Heywood case.

Following the Wang Lijun incident and Bo's removal from key Communist Party posts, Gu was placed under investigation for homicide in Heywood's death. On 10 April 2012, Gu was detained and "transferred to the judicial authorities" as part of the investigation. In an unusual move, state media appended her husband's surname in front of her own (rendering her name as Bo Gu Kailai), extremely unusual for married women in People's Republic of China, without any explanation. Some speculate that it may imply that Gu may have acquired citizenship of a foreign country, and as a result "Bo Gu Kailai" appeared on her official documents; Others suggest that this is because authorities wanted to emphasize that Gu's alleged crimes were linked to misconduct by her husband.

On 26 July 2012, Gu Kailai was formally charged with murdering Heywood, based on what the prosecutor claimed was "irrefutable and substantial" evidence. On 9 August 2012, according to the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua, Gu admitted during a one-day trial that she was responsible for Heywood's murder. She claimed that her actions were due to a "mental breakdown", and stated that she would "accept and calmly face any sentence".


On 20 August 2012, Gu Kailai received a suspended death sentence, which is normally commuted to a life sentence after two years, but she could be released on medical parole after serving nine years in prison. The trial lasted one day, and Gu did not contest her charges. Zhang Xiaojun, a Bo family aide, was sentenced to nine years in jail for his involvement in the murder, to which he confessed.

After the media published footage of the trial, claims that the woman shown in court was not in fact Gu Kailai, but a body double, quickly became popular on Chinese Internet fora, and Chinese authorities attempted to censor them. The Financial Times cited "security experts familiar with facial recognition software" as stating that the person who stood trial was not Gu Kailai, whereas a facial recognition expert contacted by Slate was of the opinion that the woman most likely was Gu. The practice of rich people paying others to stand trial and receive punishment in their place, called ding zui, is relatively widespread in China.

Following the verdict, the United Kingdom announced that it welcomed the investigation, and said that they "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." BBC News commented that "informed observers see the fingerprints of the Communist Party of China all over this outcome", stating that the trial's conclusion was "all too neat and uncannily suited to one particular agenda", that of limiting the scandal's damage. The New York Times suggested the verdict "raised questions about official corruption and political favoritism within the Communist Party."

Official Story

The official story of the Heywood murder goes as follows. Neil Heywood demanded that Gu pay him $22 million after a real estate venture failed. At one point, Heywood sent an email which threatened her son. Due to this threat, Gu decided to murder Heywood. At a hotel in Chongqing, Gu gave Heywood whiskey and tea. Heywood became drunk and vomited. When he tried to go to bed, Gu poured animal poison into his mouth and she placed pills next to him to make it appear as though he had overdosed on drugs.

Alternative Story

According to Reuters, at the end of 2011, Gu asked Heywood to move a large amount of money out of China. Heywood agreed to do that if Gu paid him a certain amount of money. But Heywood asked for a larger cut of the money than Gu expected. When Gu told Heywood he was being greedy, Heywood threatened to expose what Gu was doing. Gu was outraged and decided to kill Heywood.

There is some evidence that Gu had a history of moving large amounts of money outside China. Wang Lijun wrote two letters to the Central Discipline Inspection Commission which accused Gu of moving several hundred millions of dollars out of the country. Upon receiving the letters, the CDIC did nothing officially in response to them.


Profile: Gu Kailai

August 20, 2012

Gu Kailai was once half of one of China's most high-flying couples.

Married to populist Chongqing party leader Bo Xilai, the former lawyer enjoyed the influence that accompanied his top-level role in the all-powerful Communist Party.

But as China prepared for its 10-yearly leadership transition, the couple plummeted from grace in a scandal that rocked the political elite.

Ms Gu was tried for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood - a crime she committed, according to state media, because of a conflict over economic interests.

The charismatic Mr Bo has been sacked and his fate remains unclear. He has not been seen in public since the formal investigation into his wife was announced.

At her one-day trial on 9 August, neither Ms Gu nor her aide Zhang Xiaojun, with whom she was accused of carrying out the murder, contested the charges.

In a closing statement, Ms Gu said the case had been "a huge stone weighing on me for more than half a year," the state news agency Xinhua reported.

She blamed her actions on a "mental breakdown", saying she would "accept and calmly face any sentence".

On 20 August she was given a suspended death sentence and sent to prison.

Legal career

Before her demise, Ms Gu had a reputation as a charming and intelligent woman, always elegantly dressed and fluent in English

Like her husband, she hails from a distinguished background - she is the youngest child of General Gu Jingsheng, a prominent revolutionary.

After the Communist Party took power in 1949, he held government positions, but like many others was imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution.

She, too, was not spared and was forced to work in a butcher's shop before resuming her education once the political turmoil eased.

She met Mr Bo in 1984 in Liaoning province and the couple have one son, 24-year-old Bo Guagua, who is thought to be in the US.

After studying at the prestigious Peking University, she qualified as a lawyer in 1988 and opened her own law firm in Beijing.

She also has a masters degree in international politics and is the author of a book on fighting a legal action in the US, after representing several Chinese companies in a high-profile case there.

But she closed her law firm in 2007 when Mr Bo became the Communist Party chief in Chongqing - an action he said was to avoid the impression she was benefiting from his position.

'No mucking about'

When the murder charge was announced, Chinese state media said she had been in dispute with Mr Heywood over "economic interests" and that, worried by "Neil Heywood's threat to her son's personal security", she and Mr Zhang poisoned him.

Both the scope of these alleged economic interests and Mr Heywood's role in them remains unclear, but multiple reports suggest he may have acted as some kind of financial middleman.

Also unclear is the relationship between Ms Gu and French architect Patrick Devillers, who China asked Cambodia to detain earlier this year. He travelled to China before the trial, reportedly to act as a witness.

Comments from those who have met Ms Gu paint a mixed picture.

A US lawyer who worked with her described her as charismatic and funny, but a British businessman who had dealings with her said she had a ''ruthless streak''.

''She said to me: 'You cross me - never come to China, you'll never get out of jail'. There was no mucking about," said Giles Hall, who told the Associated Press news agency that he refused a request from Ms Gu to charge her an inflated price for a helium balloon part so the surplus could cover her son's school fees.

Leadership link?

Western media were not allowed into the court where Ms Gu went on trial. The only accounts of what happened are from the official Chinese media and eyewitnesses.

According to Xinhua, Ms Gu admitted in court to the "intentional homicide" of Mr Heywood, saying she had suffered a mental breakdown, after learning that her son was in danger.

Prosecutors said she had invited him to visit her in Chongqing, got him drunk, and then - when he asked for water - gave him poison, handed to her by Mr Zhang.

Xinhua said evidence presented in court said she had been taking a range of drugs to treat chronic insomnia, anxiety, depression and paranoia.

She had "developed a certain degree of physical and psychological dependence on sedative hypnotic drugs, which resulted in mental disorders", Xinhua reported.

The court spared her from execution, but she now begins a long jail term.

Despite the unusually detailed report from Xinhua of the case against Ms Gu, some observers continue to ask whether the downfall of her and her husband is actually more about politics, and manoeuvring for China's top posts.


Neil Heywood (20 October 1970 – 14 November 2011) was a British businessman who worked in China. He was associated with Bo Xilai, the former Communist Party of China Committee Secretary for Chongqing and a member of the Chinese Politburo.

Heywood was found dead in his hotel room in Chongqing, and the initial official reports (which have subsequently been challenged) attributed his death to alcohol poisoning. Media reports have suggested that the former chief of police under Bo, Wang Lijun, may have had information about Heywood's death. Wang fled to the US consulate in Chengdu on 6 February 2012 and allegedly told US diplomats that Heywood had been poisoned, and that Bo's family was involved in corruption. The Wang Lijun incident precipitated Bo's high-profile sacking two weeks later.

According to a reinvestigation by the Chinese authorities, evidence indicates that Heywood was murdered, with Gu Kailai, Bo Xilai's wife, and Zhang Xiaojun, an orderly at Bo's home, "highly suspected," according to Xinhua News. On 26 July 2012, Gu Kailai was charged with the murder of Neil Heywood and in August convicted of the crime.

Personal life

Born in 1970, Heywood attended the English public school Harrow between 1984 and 1988. He graduated in international relations from the University of Warwick.

He spent more than a decade in China, and was a Chinese speaker. He was married to Wang Lulu, a Chinese national from Dalian, and had two children, 11-year-old Olivia and seven-year-old Peter, who both attend the Beijing branch of Dulwich College. They lived in a private, tree-lined compound of expensive villas on the outskirts of Beijing . Mr Heywood drove an S-type Jaguar, with a Union Jack bumper sticker.

Heywood was not a heavy drinker, but was a chain smoker. His father, Peter, died of a heart attack after drinks over dinner at his London home in 2004 at age 63, according to family members.


Heywood served as an intermediary linking western companies to powerful figures in the Chinese political structure. He ran a company named Heywood Boddington Associates, registered at his mother’s house in London. It claims to be “a multi-discipline consultancy focusing on serving the interests of UK businesses in the People’s Republic of China".

He developed a business relationship with Gu Kailai, a lawyer, businesswoman, and the wife of Bo Xilai. Both Gu and Bo are children of once-prominent members of the Chinese Communist Party. Heywood appears to have played the role of a Bai Shoutao or white glove for the Bo family, doing business on their behalf, since, as a prominent party family, they could not sully their hands with financial dealings.

Businessmen have complained that any foreign company wishing to work in Chongqing had to appoint Gu Kailai's law firm to act on its behalf, failing which it could not get required permissions and licenses. The law firm, Kailai Law (now Beijing Ang-dao Law), is said to have charged exorbitant fees.

Heywood had clients including Beijing Aston Martin dealerships and Rolls-Royce. He was hired occasionally by Hakluyt & Company, a consultancy firm co-founded by a former officer in Britain's MI6 intelligence service. Rumours that Heywood might have been employed as an agent by British intelligence have been denied by Foreign Secretary William Hague (an unusual move, as the British government typically refuses to comment on the identity of its agents).

Relationship with Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai

Heywood had business links with Gu Kailai, the wife of Bo Xilai. He was said to have met the Bo family in Dalian, the northeast metropolis where Bo was mayor from 1994 to 2000. Heywood was then working at a Dalian English-language school and helped Bo’s youngest son gain admission to Harrow.

The Daily Mail has suggested that Heywood and Gu may have been involved in an extra-marital affair. The Daily Telegraph, however, reports that the two "shared a long and close personal relationship, but were not romantically involved."

Following a corruption investigation in 2007, Gu is said to have become increasingly paranoid. In 2010, she allegedly asked Heywood and other close associates to divorce their spouses and swear allegiance to her.

Reuters news agency reported (based on a source in Chongqing who had been briefed by government investigators) that Heywood told Gu that he had the power to ruin her and her family, based on his knowledge of overseas funds transfers made by the Bo family. This was the first time that a possible motive for the businessman’s murder had been reported. Gu and Heywood are said to have had a financial disagreement in October 2011. Reportedly, Gu was trying to move a large amount of yuan out of China through Heywood, and he demanded a larger commission than usual. When Gu objected, he is said to have made a veiled threat to expose her dealing.


On 14 November, Heywood was summoned to Chongqing by Gu Kailai. She sent Zhang Xiaojun to bring him from Beijing to the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel. Zhang Xiaojun is described as an 'orderly' in the Bo household. Aged 32, he used to serve as a bodyguard for Bo Yibo (one of the Founding Fathers of People's Republic of China). He is also listed as the supervisor of the Guagua Technology Company, belonging to Bo Guagua.

The Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel is a secluded three-star hilltop retreat, also marketed as the Lucky Holiday Hotel. Gu Kailai is known to have hosted a banquet there in the past, but according to two sources quoted by The Daily Telegraph in the UK, was not at the scene at the time of Heywood's murder. The hotel is located in and overlooks Nan'an District.

Heywood was found in his hotel room, 26 hours after his death. The cause of death was given as alcohol poisoning. There was no autopsy and he was cremated days later. Questions were raised later as friends described him as "not a serious drinker" (some reports have his family describing him as "a teetotaler").

An internal Chinese report confirmed that Heywood died from potassium cyanide added to his drink. However further investigations led to new findings suggesting the death of Heywood was a murder committed by Gu Kailai.


Two days after Heywood's death, according to internet reports related by the Daily Mail, Gu Kailai met with Heywood's wife and urged her to permit immediate cremation without an autopsy. Kailai was accompanied by two armed guards in this exchange. British Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne met Bo Xilai in China a few days later, but did not raise the question of Heywood’s death.

Wang Lijun, who was the head of Chongqing police department as well as the vice mayor of Chongqing, was in charge of the investigation. According to a CPC internal report, Wang Lijun and his lieutenants were said to be under political pressure during the investigations. Soon Wang Lijun found the murder was related to Bo Xilai, who had been his superior for more than 10 years. After submitting the investigation report to Bo Xilai, Wang Lijun was suspended by Bo. (Only the Ministry of Public Security is able to suspended Wang legally, however Bo did it illegally anyway.) Also, some of the police officers who participated in the investigation were arrested.

In February 2012, Wang Lijun fled to the US consulate in Chengdu, precipitating the so-called Wang Lijun incident. On 14 March 2012, the Dalian based billionaire Xu Ming, a close associate of Bo, disappeared. It was speculated that he was under arrest. Reports suggest Heywood's wife was employed by Xu. On 15 March 2012, Bo Xilai was removed from his post of party chief for Chongqing.

On 10 April 2012, Bo Xilai was suspended from the Politburo and suspected of being involved in "serious disciplinary violations". The same day, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said that, according to the reinvestigation, the evidence indicated Heywood was a victim of homicide, of which Bo Xilai's wife Gu Kailai, and Zhang Xiaojun, her bodyguard, were "strongly suspected". Bo was placed under house arrest in Beijing. Gu and Zhang were both arrested.

The Communist Party chief in Nan’an, Xia Zeliang, was detained for questioning in April 2012; the official was a staunch ally of Bo. He was arrested and allegedly confessed that he prepared the poison and handed it to an employee of Bo.

On 13 April 2012, Heywood's widow Wang Lulu visited the British Embassy in Beijing, and asked for a visa to travel to the UK with her two young children, reportedly concerned that the people who had killed her husband might now come after her and her family. The entrance to the family's gated compound in Beijing was manned by troops from the People’s Liberation Army, and police ordered her not to communicate with international journalists.

According to The Daily Telegraph of 17 April 2012, UK Prime Minister David Cameron would meet Chinese publicity department head Li Changchun to discuss the Heywood case. The Boxun website reported that Bo's most influential supporter, the 9th ranking Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, was forced to make "tearful self-confessions" to Hu Jintao.

Legal process

On 26 July 2012, Gu Kailai was charged with the murder of Neil Heywood.

On 9 August 2012, the trial of Gu Kalai was held and lasted only one day, as the defendant did not contest the charges. The same day, four policemen, all senior officers from Chongqing, where the UK businessman was killed, were formally accused of covering up the murder of Heywood and indicted to go on trial.

On 20 August 2012, the verdict was announced. Gu Kailai was sentenced to death but the sentence was suspended, which means that Gu is likely to face from 14 years to life in jail, if she does not commit offences in the next two years. Zhang Xiaojun, a Bo family aide, was sentenced to nine years in jail for his involvement in the murder, which he admitted to.

Following the verdict, Britain's embassy in China stated, in an e-mailed press release, that it had welcomed the investigation, adding "[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." BBC News commented that "informed observers see the fingerprints of the Communist Party of China all over this outcome", stating that the trial's conclusion was "all too neat and uncannily suited to one particular agenda", that of limiting the scandal's damage.

Both Zhang Xiaojun and Gu Kailai declined to exercise their right to an appeal.


China's Gu Kailai gets suspended death sentence

By John Ruwitch -

August 20, 2012

China sentenced the wife of fallen Politburo member Bo Xilai to death on Monday but suspended her execution, setting the stage for a possible final purge of Bo himself in a scandal that has shaken Beijing ahead of a leadership transition.

The sentence means Gu Kailai is likely to face life in jail for murdering British businessman Neil Heywood last year.

It also brings a curtain down on China's most sensational trial in three decades, yet opens a new and more politically dangerous act for the ruling Communist Party -- how to deal with Bo, an ambitious and well-connected provincial leader whose downfall exposed rifts in the party.

"I feel the verdict is just and fully reflects the court's special respect for the law, its special respect for reality and, in particular, its special respect for life," Gu said of the sentence in official television footage of the hearing.

Gu, 53, wore a white shirt and black suit and stood expressionless, hands folded in front of her, as she spoke, pausing at one point to find the right words.

At her trial on August 9, Gu admitted to poisoning Heywood last November, and alleged that a business dispute between them led him to threaten her son, Bo Guagua, according to official accounts published by state media.

A court official, Tang Yigan, said the court had concluded that Heywood used threatening words against Bo Guagua, but had never acted on them. The court also found Gu's actions reflected a "psychological impairment" but did not elaborate.

Gu could still face execution if she commits a new offence over the next two years. Almost invariably in China, however, such suspended sentences are commuted to long prison terms.

The court, in the eastern city of Hefei, also said Zhang Xiaojun, an aide to the Bo family, was sentenced to nine years in jail for acting as an accomplice to the poisoning of Heywood.

"With both of the defendants declining to appeal, this marks the end of things," Zhang's lawyer, Li Renting, told Reuters.

Four policemen were also convicted on Monday of having sought to protect Gu from investigation, receiving jail sentences of between five and 11 years - a development that could prove damaging for Bo because it establishes formally that there was an attempted cover-up.

Police sources in Chongqing, the southwestern municipality ruled by Bo until he was ousted as its party chief in March, have said that Bo tried to shut down the investigation into his wife after being told she was a suspect early this year.

Some Chinese political experts doubt the party will look to prosecute Bo, and note that his name was not cited at either the trial of his wife or the four policemen. But He Weifang, a law professor at Peking University, said he believed Bo would still face a court once the party had decided how to handle him.

"I think there's a range of options, such as economic crimes, concealing a crime, or obstructing justice that could all be used against him," He said. "I don't think that we can say that Bo Xilai has been cut free from this."


A source close to Bo's family told Reuters that China's leadership had yet to make a final decision on how to deal with him, and the lack of any mention of him in the trial left room for negotiation over his fate.

Bo has only been accused of unspecified violations of party discipline that possibly include corruption, abuse of power and other misdeeds. These could lead to his expulsion from the party but criminal charges could see him locked away, making it much less likely that he could ever be politically rehabilitated.

"Bo Xilai might be tried so that he can be silenced and ensure he can't stage a comeback," said the source close to Bo's family, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But the lack of mention of his name leaves room for him to bargain on what mistakes he has to acknowledge."

Bo's downfall has stirred more division than that of any other leader for more than two decades.

To leftist supporters, Bo was a rallying figure for efforts to reimpose party control over dizzying, unequal market growth. But he made foes among those who saw him as an opportunist who wanted to impose his hardline policies on the country.

Bo's hopes for climbing into China's next top leadership unraveled after his former police chief, Wang Lijun, fled to a U.S. consulate in early February for about 24 hours and exposed the murder allegations.

Britain's embassy in China said in an emailed statement that it welcomed the "fact that the Chinese authorities have investigated the death of Neil Heywood and tried those they identified as responsible". It added that Britain had asked the Chinese authorities not to apply the death penalty.

Bo, the son of a revolutionary, ran Chongqing where Heywood was killed. Bo was seen as competing for a seat in the Politburo Standing Committee, the body at the pinnacle of power in China, at a once-in-a-decade leadership transition later this year.

He was sacked as Chongqing boss in March and Gu was publicly accused of the murder in April, when Bo was suspended from the Politburo, a 25-member elite council that ranks below the Standing Committee. He has yet to be expelled from that council.

Bo has not been seen in public since March, when he gave a combative defense of his policies and family at a news conference during China's annual parliament session.

Bo's ardent sympathizers remain convinced he is the victim of plotting by his enemies. Wang Zheng, a Beijing woman who has campaigned in his defense, said the government would face an uproar if it decided to prosecute him.

"This is all about politics. It's got nothing to do with some sort of rule of law," said Wang, a former college teacher.

(Additional reporting by Chris Buckley and Benjamin Kang Lim in BEIJING; Editing by Mark Bendeich and Robert Birsel)


Bo Xilai scandal: Gu Kailai trial for Heywood murder end

August 9, 2011

The trial of Gu Kailai for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood has ended in the Chinese city of Hefei, after one day.

A court official told reporters Ms Gu had not contested the charge that she killed Mr Heywood by poisoning in 2011.

The date of the verdict would be announced later, the official said.

Ms Gu is the wife of former high-flying politician Bo Xilai, whose career in office was ended by the scandal surrounding Mr Heywood's death.

Ms Gu, herself a prominent lawyer, is on trial along with her aide, Zhang Xiaojun, who was described by the court as an accomplice.

Two British diplomats were in court to observe the trial, but no foreign media were given permission to attend.

In an unusual news briefing outside the court, the court official, Tang Yigan, said Ms Gu and Mr Zhang "did not raise objections to the facts and the charges of intentional homicide".

'Ample evidence'

Reading from a statement, Mr Tang said the prosecution alleged that Ms Gu had been involved in a business dispute with Mr Heywood, and believed he had "threatened the personal safety of her son... and decided to kill him".

The prosecution alleged she had arranged for Mr Heywood to travel to Chongqing from Beijing, accompanied by Mr Zhang.

Ms Gu spent the evening of 13 November with Mr Heywood at the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel, where they drank tea and alcoholic drinks.

"After Heywood became intoxicated, vomited and asked for a drink of water, she poured a poison into his mouth that had been prepared beforehand and that she had given to Zhang Xiaojun to bring along, causing Heywood's death," said the statement.

"The facts of the crime are clear and backed by ample evidence," it said.

Mr Tang said Ms Gu had been "in good shape and mentally stable," throughout the trial.

"The trial committee will announce the verdict after discussion," he said.

The two defendants face a possible death penalty if found guilty.

China's state news agency Xinhua later reported that four police officers would go on trial on Friday, accused of trying to protect Ms Gu from prosecution.

Political fall

Mr Heywood's body was found at the hotel in Chongqing in November 2011.

The death was recorded as a heart attack at the time, but four months later Mr Bo's right-hand man, police chief Wang Lijun, fled to a US consulate to allege murder and a massive cover-up.

Bo Xilai was the Communist party head in Chongqing at the time of Mr Heywood's death.

He had been seen as a strong contender for one of China's top jobs, as the country prepares to install a new generation of leaders.

But he was sacked in March and is currently under investigation for unspecified "disciplinary violations.

The BBC's John Sudworth in Hefei says the facts of the case may be as they have been reported by the court, but that there is a strong political element to the story.

The case raises questions about corruption at the highest level, says our correspondent, so it is almost certain that this will be a politically managed trial as well as a criminal one.

The court may take into account mitigating circumstances in its verdict, he adds, including the assertion that Ms Gu had been concerned for her safety and that of her son.

Ms Gu, Mr Zhang and Mr Bo have not been seen in public since April, when the investigation was announced.

One of Ms Gu's supporters, who gave his name as Mr Han, criticised the process of the trial, and said she should have been allowed to choose her own lawyer rather than accept one appointed by the court.

"She should have been granted the right to defend herself to the media," he said.

"I won't accept any verdict before I hear their side of the story."

But there was a mixed reaction on Chinese social media, with many posts expressing satisfaction at the verdict.

"All the corrupt officials try their best to sing the praises of the present system, but I wonder what they say now after they have been tried!" said Lian Zhugen on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.

The trial is being held in Hefei, 1,000 km (650 miles) from Chongqing.



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