The wife of Chinese politician Bo Xilai (薄熙來), whose downfall rocked China’s ruling elite, has admitted murdering a British businessman and blamed her actions on a mental breakdown, state media said.
Gu Kailai (谷開來) said at her trial that she poisoned Neil Heywood after being pushed over the edge by fears that her son was in danger, Xinhua news agency reported late on Friday, more than a day after the trial wrapped up.
The former top lawyer said she would “accept and calmly face any sentence” handed down by the court in the eastern city of Hefei following the seven-hour trial.
The verdict will be given at a later date and while murder carries the death penalty in China, experts say Gu is likely to be spared execution and will instead face a long jail term.
Heywood’s murder and allegations of a cover-up sparked the biggest political scandal in China for years and led to the downfall of Bo.
According to Xinhua, Gu told the court that “during those days last November, I suffered a mental breakdown after learning that my son was in jeopardy.”
Her son, Bo Guagua (薄瓜瓜), and Heywood got into a dispute over a land project, Xinhua said, citing Gu’s testimony.
The court heard that Heywood had demanded ￡13 million (US$20 million), and sent Bo Guagua an e-mail threatening “you will be destroyed,” according to a source who was in the room for the hearing and requested anonymity.
According to Gu’s testimony, she felt that “I must fight to my death to stop the craziness of Neil Heywood.”
Gu then met Heywood for a drink in a hotel room in the southwestern city of Chongqing, where her husband was at the time party boss, according to Xinhua.
She then killed him by pouring poison into his mouth when he was drunk and scattered pills across the hotel room floor to make it look as if he had overdosed.
“The case has produced great losses to the Party and the country, for which I ought to shoulder the responsibility, and I will never feel at ease,” Gu told the court.
A domestic helper, Zhang Xiaojun (張曉軍), admitted at the hearing to aiding Gu in the murder, Xinhua said. Four police officers also admitted on Friday to covering up the murder, a court official said.
The court heard how the officers covered up Gu’s involvement in Heywood’s death by “forging interview scripts and hiding evidence,” agreeing to say he died of excessive alcohol consumption.
Gu’s carefully stage-managed trial, and that of the police officers, were being closely watched for any hints on Bo’s likely fate. However, in several reports on the case released by Xinhua late on Friday, he was not mentioned once.
Xinhua said that a panel asked to assess Gu’s mental state had concluded that she had been treated for depression and had taken drugs to combat the condition in the past. However, the experts said Gu still bore “full criminal responsibility.”