Silent No More: Heywood’s Mother Seeks Closure
Ann Heywood, the mother of the slain businessman Neil Heywood, spoke out for the first time in a public grievance letter published via the The Wall Street Journal. In anticipation of the Bo Xilai trial, Heywood requests a practical response from the Chinese government in the form of compensation for her son’s two young children. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, and a family aide were handed down a suspended death sentence and a nine-year prison term, respectively, for Heywood’s murder. An excerpt from her letter reads:
In the months following Neil’s death, it gradually became clear, from media reports and from official Chinese statements, that Neil did not die from natural causes but was murdered. It also became clear that prominent Chinese officials, including a member of the Communist Party’s politburo and a number of senior policemen, were connected with the murder and involved in a systematic coverup.
While struggling to come to terms with my own grief, my overriding concern has been for the security and well-being of Neil’s two children. Now aged just 8 and 12, they 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.
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. 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.[Source]
The BBC notes that the Heywood family has reached out several times including twice last month to Chinese authorities about the “family’s concerns”:
The British embassy in Beijing said it had been in contact with Chinese authorities on Mr Heywood’s family’s behalf.
“We’ve made the Chinese authorities, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, aware of the family’s concerns on several occasions since the trial, most recently twice during July,” Reuters news agency quoted an unidentified embassy spokesman as saying.
According to The Wall Street Journal, legal experts believe that compensation for the Heywoods would first need approval from Chinese authorities before coming directly from the Bo or Gu accounts:
Mrs. Heywood has yet to receive any offer of compensation, or a full explanation of the circumstances leading to her son’s death from what Chinese authorities say was cyanide poisoning in a hotel room in Chongqing, according to people close to the Heywood family.
Any compensation for the Heywood family would likely come from the Bo or Gu families, but would require the tacit, if not explicit, approval of Chinese authorities, according to legal experts.[Source]
After Gu Kailai was charged with Neil Heywood’s murder last year, The New York Times reported that Ms. Heywood also wrote to the British Press Complaints Commission vowing never to discuss her son’s murder with the media:
Ann Heywood, the murder victim’s mother, wrote 10 days ago to Britain’s newspaper watchdog, the Press Complaints Commission, asking it to remind British newspapers that she, and her daughter Leonie Summers, had resolved not to respond to media inquiries about the case.
“Neither Leonie nor I will ever comment on Neil’s death,” she said.
The letter was written after Ms. Gu, who is married to Bo Xilai, a deposed former member of the Communist Party hierarchy, had pleaded guilty to Mr. Heywood’s murder in a one-day court appearance. Through her lawyers, Ms. Gu said that she had acted after her mind became unhinged, in part by what they described as threats Mr. Heywood had made against Bo Guagua, who studied at Oxford before moving on to Harvard.[Source]
Reuters also reports that Neil Heywood’s widow has also sought compensation from Gu Kailai:
A source close to the family said Heywood’s Chinese widow, Lulu, had been pushing for compensation for herself and their two young children from Gu. Lulu and the children are believed to be still living in Beijing.
Li Xiaolin, a lawyer who has represented Gu’s family in the past, said Heywood’s family was seeking between 30 million and 50 million yuan ($8.17 million) in compensation.
“The talks started last year, but have not reached any agreement yet that I know of,” Li told Reuters. “Gu Kailai has no money herself.”
Money was not being sought from Bo though as he was not mentioned in the verdict for Gu’s case, Li said. [Source]
Read more about the Bo Xilai scandal via CDT.