Family Seeks Compensation for British Businessman's Mysterious Death in China

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BEIJING -- The wife and the mother of Neil Heywood, the British businessman whose mysterious death in China set off the downfall of a senior Communist Party official last year, have pressed for compensation over what the Chinese authorities had determined was a murder, according to people with knowledge of the case.

Family members of Mr. Heywood began pressing for compensation months ago from the family of Gu Kailai, the wife of the Chinese official, said one person with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate politics of the case.

Ms. Gu was convicted last year of poisoning Mr. Heywood in November 2011 in a hotel in the municipality of Chongqing, a region of 30 million in southwest China that was governed by Ms. Gu's husband, Bo Xilai. Ms. Gu was given a suspended life sentence, which generally equates to life in prison. The trial of Mr. Bo on charges of bribetaking, corruption and abuse of power is expected to start soon.

Officials at the British Embassy in Beijing discussed the Heywood family's concerns with Chinese Foreign Ministry officials twice in July, an embassy spokesman said Tuesday. There is no sign that the Gu family intends to pay any compensation. It is unclear how much money in assets, cash or investments Ms. Gu herself owned.

Mr. Heywood's mother, Ann Heywood, released a statement to The Wall Street Journal on Sunday in which she said her "overriding concern has been for the security and well-being of Neil's two children," who live with Mr. Heywood's widow, Wang Lulu, in Beijing.

"Now aged just 8 and 12, the children are particularly vulnerable to the hurt and horror of their father's murder and, since Neil was the family's sole breadwinner, to uncertainty and insecurity, there being no financial provision for their future," she said.

Ann Heywood said the Chinese authorities had ignored repeated entreaties from the family for compensation. "I hope and trust that the leaders of this great nation, which Neil loved and respected, will now show decisiveness and compassion, so as to mitigate the consequences of a terrible crime and to enable my family finally to achieve some kind of closure to our ongoing nightmare," she said.

One person with knowledge of the case said the Heywood family members could have sought to attach a civil suit demanding compensation to the criminal case against Ms. Gu. But they failed to do so, and so the judges making the decision in the criminal case did not consider asking Ms. Gu or her family to pay compensation, said the person. Ms. Gu's trial ended last August.

Mr. Heywood's family members still have the option of filing a separate civil suit against Ms. Gu or her family. Ms. Wang, the wife of Mr. Heywood, could not be reached for comment. She has refused to talk to reporters since the murder scandal first emerged in March 2012.

Officials announced indictments against Mr. Bo on July 25. The trial is expected to take place in Jinan, capital of Shandong Province. Mr. Bo was removed from his post in Chongqing in March 2012 and expelled from the party in September; he had a seat on the 25-member Politburo.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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