Family of murdered Briton seeks damages in China

BEIJING (AP) — The family of a British businessman who was murdered by the wife of an influential Chinese politician is seeking compensation from his killer, a lawyer said Tuesday.

Beijing attorney Li Xiaolin said lawyers representing Neil Heywood’s family had met with lawyers for Gu Kailai, the jailed wife of the former Communist Party leader in the megacity of Chongqing, to ask for compensation.

The spokesman for the British Embassy, John Gallagher, said British officials had repeatedly raised the issue of compensation for the Heywood family with China’s Foreign Ministry.

“We made the Chinese authorities aware of the family’s concerns on the compensation issue on several occasions since the trial, most recently twice during July 2013,” Gallagher said.

Heywood’s murder was at the center of China’s most embarrassing political scandal in decades, with Gu’s husband, Bo Xilai, dismissed from his post as Chongqing party chief and stripped of other political positions.

Bo is awaiting trial on charges of corruption and abuse of power that appear to have been limited in scope to secure his cooperation in a closely orchestrated affair and minimize the damage the scandal has done to the Communist Party’s image.

Last year, Gu was given a suspended death sentence after confessing to poisoning Heywood with cyanide.

Heywood’s mother, Ann Heywood, issued a statement through The Wall Street Journal on Sunday saying that she was worried about the financial well-being of Heywood’s two children, aged 8 and 12. She said Chinese authorities had not been responsive.

“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 wrote.

Li, the attorney, said that while he did not officially represent the Gu family, he served as an informal legal adviser to Gu’s mother. At the time of Gu’s trial, Li was representing Gu’s household aide, who was accused of abetting the crime.

He said that the Heywood family was seeking 30-50 million yuan ($5-8 million) in compensation, but that no outcome was in sight because it was unclear how much money Gu had. “While she’s locked up in prison, how much assets she has is unknown,” Li said. “If a person is to repay a debt, they must first have money to pay.”

He Zhengsheng, a Beijing lawyer representing the Heywood family, declined to comment, saying it was not the appropriate time to do so.

China’s Foreign Ministry had no immediate response to a faxed request for comment.

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