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Briton's family seek murder damages

The family of a British businessman who was murdered by the wife of an influential Chinese politician are seeking compensation from his killer, a lawyer has said.

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

British Embassy spokesman John Gallagher said UK 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," he said.

Mr Heywood's murder was at the centre 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 co-operation in a closely orchestrated affair and minimise 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 Mr Heywood with cyanide.

Mr 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 her son's two children, aged eight 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," she wrote.

Lawyer Mr Li 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, he was representing Gu's household aide, who was accused of abetting the crime.

He said the Heywood family was seeking 30-50 million yuan (£3.1-5-2 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," Mr 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 made no immediate response to a faxed request for comment.

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