China appears to be preparing the public for sparing from execution the wife of politician Bo Xilai who is accused of murdering a British man, a legal expert said, as a verdict is awaited in the politically-charged case.
Bo’s wife Gu Kailai and an accomplice were tried on Thursday for poisoning Neil Heywood, allegedly after her son fell out with the businessman in a dispute over a land project.
In a lengthy and unusual report released through China’s official Xinhua news agency on Friday, Gu admitted guilt and blamed her actions on a mental breakdown over fears Heywood had threatened her son.
The court heard Heywood had demanded 13 million pounds (US$20 million), and sent Bo Guagua an email threatening “you will be destroyed”, a source who attended the hearing, who requested anonymity.
The verdict is expected to be delivered at a later date, possibly days or weeks away, 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, who had been tipped to become one of the ruling Communist Party’s top leaders.
It also exposed deep divisions among China’s rulers ahead of a sensitive 10-yearly handover of power later this year, and observers say the party is keen to swiftly draw a line under the controversy.