BEIJING — The wife of the disgraced former Communist Party boss of Chongqing confessed to murdering a British businessman, apologized for the “tragedy” she caused and was ready to accept her punishment, state media reported Friday.
The most detailed accounting of the scandal that has shaken the country’s leadership describes Gu Kailai as depressed and fearful that Neil Heywood would harm her family – factors that may bring leniency when she is convicted and sentenced.
The official Xinhua News Agency in an extensive report on the case said Gu and her co-defendant “confessed to intentional murder” at their seven-hour trial the previous day. They were accused of poisoning her business associate Neil Heywood with cyanide last November after having a dispute over economic interests.
Gu’s arrest and the ouster of her husband Bo Xilai as Chongqing party chief in March sparked the biggest political turbulence in China since the putdown of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Her tightly orchestrated trial was a step toward resolving the scandal before the party’s once-a-decade leadership transition this fall.
The court in Hefei in eastern China’s Anhui province said a verdict against Gu and the family aide accused as an accomplice would be delivered later. Their trial was followed Friday by the trial of four senior Chinese police officers accused of helping Gu cover up the crime.
Xinhua said Gu accepted all the facts in the indictment, saying: “The tragedy which was created by me was not only extended to Neil, but also to several families.”
Gu said Heywood wrote a letter of self-introduction in about 2005 when her son Bo Guagua was studying in Britain. They then got involved in a failed land project. According to Xinhua, she said Heywood later got into a dispute with her and her son over payment and other issues and that she “believed Heywood had threatened the personal safety of her son and decided to kill Heywood.”
It said that according to testimony that prosecutors presented in court, Gu said: “To me, that was more than a threat. It was real action that was taking place. I must fight to my death to stop the craziness of Neil Heywood.”
The report did not give say why the murder then took place seven years later when Bo Guagua was a graduate student at Harvard.
Xinhua said that family aide Zhang Xiaojun had also confessed and said “sorry” to the relatives of Heywood.
A guilty verdict is all but assured against the Gu and Zhang and carries the potential punishment of 10 years in prison up to a death sentence.
The report said Gu has been treated for chronic insomnia, anxiety and depression and paranoia in the past, and had unsuccessfully used various drugs to overcome those problems, and that she had “developed a certain degree of physical and psychological dependence on sedative hypnotic drugs, which resulted in mental disorders.”
But it said Gu “had a clear goal and a practical motive in committing the alleged crime,” shown by the preparations prior to Heywood’s death, such as arranging the poison and location in an isolated hotel.
That meant, Xinhua said, that although she had “a weakened ability to control herself,” Gu knew the consequences of the alleged crime and therefore “she should be identified as having the capacity to accept full criminal responsibility.”
Xinhua quoted Gu as saying “the case has produced great losses to the Party and the country, for which I ought to shoulder the responsibility” and that she was grateful to the humanitarian care shown to her by those who handled the case.
“I solemnly tell the court that in order to maintain the dignity of the law, I will accept and calmly face any sentence and I also expect a fair and just court decision,” she said.
The report detailed the help Gu had from four police officers in Chongqing, whose one-day trial was held in Hefei on Friday. A verdict against them will also be delivered later.
It said the four decided to say Heywood died of excessive drinking even though he was not known as a heavy drinker, and covered up Gu’s presence at the scene by fabricating interview records and hiding material evidence and other measures.