Gu Kailai stood in a Hefei court last week, looking not quite the woman with the sharp face and piercing gaze; the short hair was in place but the face was swollen, cheeks puffy. She was in public after five months — husband Bo Xilai is yet to be seen — and heavy anti-depressants could have caused the puffiness. Wild rumours on some internet platforms suggested that the person in the court could even be a body double.
Gu looked calm as the 11th typhoon of the year, Haikui, named after colourful, predatory sea animals, anemones, swirled and hovered near Hefei. She seemed to know what was coming; if there was an internal tempest, Gu, a trained lawyer, hid it well. Her confession was calm: she had met Neil Heywood in 2005, subsequently a business deal fell through, Heywood then threatened her son in UK and so she murdered him to protect her only child.
But many, many questions remain unanswered in the version of the trial proceedings splashed across state media. Is it easy to threaten a powerful Chinese politician’s son in UK and get away with it? Heywood had fallen out with Gu. So, why did he agree to visit Chongqing?
Names were missing: Bo’s name wasn’t mentioned once in the published proceedings. It is difficult to believe that Bo wasn’t aware that his wife, aide and party colleagues from Chongqing’s municipality had hatched a plan to murder a foreigner he knew well.
Missing was the name of French architect Patrick Devillers, known to be Gu’s business associate, who flew in from Cambodia last month.
Police chief Wang Lijun’s role hasn’t been explained fully. It was his visit to a US consulate in February that began the avalanche of events.
In her confession, Gu claimed she knew Heywood since 2005. But many news articles from the UK have mentioned they knew each other for many years, even hinting they were lovers. There was one sensational story in Daily Mail which quoted Heywood’s former bodyguard as saying he took on three Chinese acrobatic assassins assigned to kill Heywood and Gu sometime in 2001 in Bournemouth.
The mystery is way thicker behind the shroud of secrecy.