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HEFEI, China – China’s most widely anticipated trial in a generation ended Thursday less than eight hours after it began, with Gu Kailai, a daughter of the Communist Party’s “red aristocracy” and the wife of deposed leader Bo Xilai, confessing that she poisoned a British businessman who she believed threatened her son, according to an inside observer’s courtroom account.
The observer’s account, and an official court statement, detailed a dramatic case, including an emailed threat purportedly from the victim, Neil Heywood, and a description of how Gu poured a concoction of cyanide into Heywood’s mouth after he vomited and asked for water. Then, the observer said, Gu stood and addressed the court. “I committed a crime that brought negative consequences to the party and the country,” Gu said, according to the courtroom spectator who asked not to be named. “I am willing to receive any punishment,” Gu said calmly, according to the courtroom observer. She also asked for leniency for her household aide, Zhang Xiaojun, who was accused of helping her carry out the murder.
The case sparked China’s most serious political crisis in decades, derailing the expected promotion of Bo. It also provoked anger among Bo’s many supporters and revealed long-hidden fissures in the top ranks of the Communist Party’s normally secretive hierarchy.
The trial was held here in Anhui Province, hundreds of miles from Chongqing where the murder occurred. The only reporters allowed inside were from state-run Xinhua news agency and CCTV.
Afterward, the court released a lengthy official statement, and the observer filled in more of the details.
The court statement said Gu was not mentally stable at the time of the murder and that “her self-control was weaker than a normal person’s.”
According to the person inside the courtroom, prosecutors described how on Nov. 10, 2011, Heywood sent an email to Bo and Gu’s only son, Bo Guagua, who was attending Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and had told him about a property development project. Heywood was upset about the project that went bust and that was supposed to net Heywood more than $154 million. Heywood was demanding that Bo Guagua send him 10 percent of the promised returns.Heywood supposedly warned Bo Guagua that if he did not pay the money, “you will be destroyed.”