Conspiracy theories surrounding Heywood's death

Angus Walker

Former ITV News Correspondent

British businessman Neil Heywood was found dead in his hotel room in China last year. Credit: Reuters

There is plenty more rumour about Bo Xilai, his wife and their relationship with the British businessman Neil Heywood.

For example, was Neil Heywood involved in siphoning millions of pounds out of the country on behalf of the Bo family? It is not unheard of for Chinese officials to use their positions to make vast fortunes from bribes and illicit property deals.

In its coverage of the scandal, state media has made a point of warning party officials not to be tempted into illegal financial schemes designed to shift ill gotten gains abroad.

One theory suggests Neil Heywood wanted a bigger cut and threatened to expose the Bo family money making machine. His threats of blackmail supposedly led to his death.

Another suggests, and I have mentioned this in previous posts, that the death of Neil Heywood from natural causes or not, has been used as a useful case by political enemies of Bo Xilai to frame him. Bo was a rising star and his high profile campaigning style had won him both praise and hatred.

MPs on the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee have formally asked William Hague to say whether Neil Heywood worked for MI6 or not. The suggestion being he was killed because he was a spook.

The week before last when I saw the Jaguar car Mr Heywood used to drive around Beijing with its 007 numberplate and Union Jack bumper sticker, I thought this is either the most blatant double bluff in the history of espionage or, more likely, British humour.

Yes, he was a spy in the sense that he was paid by Western clients to find out what was going on inside the sometimes shadowy world of Chinese corporations. Lots of firms employed him to do just that and rated his abilities.

The speculation that Neil Heywood was a victim of a much larger power struggle between Bo Xilai's ambitions for high office and those who opposed his rise is, perhaps tellingly, the only conspiracy theory being openly commented on by the secretive Chinese leadership.

Today an editorial in the English language China Daily insists the investigation into Bo Xilai's suspected corruption and his wife's alleged murder of Mr Heywood is just a criminal inquiry, being pursued according to the "country's sophisticated Criminal Code", and not a move by the leadership to frame a rival.

Bo Xilai and his wife Gu Kailai Credit: REUTERS

The writer says "Such conspiracy theories might make entertaining movies but these are real life investigations into corruption and murder."

However, one well placed source has suggested dozens of allies of Bo have been rounded up and are being held by the Party. That type of action would appear to be more like a purge of those who are linked politically to Bo Xilai rather than a widening criminal inquiry.