The family of Neil Heywood, a British businessman, whose murder in China triggered one of the biggest political scandals in the country, has sought compensation from Gu Kailai, the convicted murderer of Heywood and the wife of Bo Xilai, a high profile Chinese Communist Party politician.
Ann Heywood, the mother of Neil Heywood, in a statement to the Wall Street Journal on Monday, called on the Chinese leadership to help “mitigate the consequences of a terrible crime” and to allow her family to “achieve some kind of closure” to an “ongoing nightmare.”
Heywood, who resides in London, said she had refused media requests to comment on her son’s death to avoid causing “unnecessary embarrassment to the Chinese authorities,” but “circumstances now compel me to break my silence."
“Given the circumstances of Neil's murder, I have been surprised and disappointed that, despite repeated discreet approaches to the Chinese authorities, there has been no substantive or practical response,” Heywood said, adding that Neil’s children, now aged 8 and 12, “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.”
Gu was convicted in August 2012 of murdering Heywood and was sentenced to life in prison, in a case that laid bare the rampant corruption in the top echelons of Chinese politics.
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Heywood’s Chinese widow, Lulu Heywood, who lives in Beijing with the couple’s sons, has been trying to win compensation from Gu, but with little results, a source close to Lulu told Reuters, on Monday.
Under Chinese law, the person convicted of murder is usually ordered by the court to pay compensation to the victim’s family. But, Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent human rights lawyer, who spoke to Reuters, said it appeared “very strange” that a decision on compensation was not reached during Gu’s trial.
Chinese law does not specify benchmarks to decide on the size of the compensation, which is usually stipulated by courts based on the perpetrator’s ability to pay and the nature of the crime.
Bo, a former finance minister and an erstwhile member of the Communist Party’s 25-member Politburo, was indicted on July 25 on charges of bribery, corruption and abuse of power, but the statement did not mention Bo’s involvement in covering up Heywood’s murder.
The British embassy in Beijing said it is aware of the Heywood family’s concerns over the languishing request for compensation and that it has gotten in touch with Chinese authorities to address them, Reuters reported.
Neil Heywood fell out of favor with the Bo family in 2007 and their ties were further damaged in early 2011, when Heywood began demanding compensation in exchange for his services, including managing the family’s overseas properties.