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PM 'likely' to raise Heywood case

Prime Minister David Cameron is "likely" to raise the death of British businessman Neil Heywood when he meets a senior Chinese Communist Party official in Downing Street, aides have said.

Mr Cameron's talks with politburo member Li Changchun are due to focus on trade, cultural and education links between Britain and China, said Number 10. But the pair are also likely to discuss the investigation into Mr Heywood's death in the central Chinese city of Chongqing last November.

Mr Heywood, 41, was a friend of the family of Bo Xilai, a former rising star in Chinese politics who served as local party chief in Chongqing but was suspended from the politburo in April amid allegations of "serious discipline violations".

State media reports in China have suggested that investigations by authorities there indicate that Mr Heywood was a victim of homicide. Unconfirmed reports on Mandarin-language websites over recent days have suggested that he may have died from cyanide poisoning after allegedly having an affair with Bo's wife, the prominent lawyer Gu Kailai.

At the time of his death, Chinese officials said the British expat died of "excessive alcohol consumption".

But friends questioned this, saying the businessman was not a heavy drinker. In February, Mr Bo's former police chief Wang Lijun sought refuge in the US consulate in China.

It is thought he made a number of claims against the politician and Mrs Gu, including her alleged role in Mr Heywood's death. According to Chinese state media reports, Mrs Gu and Zhang Xiaojun, an orderly at Mr Bo's home, have been arrested.

Asked whether Mr Cameron planned to raise the Heywood case with Mr Li, a Downing Street spokeswoman told reporters at a regular media briefing: "It is likely to come up. The purpose of the meeting is to strengthen Britain's relationship with China in a range of areas including trade and people-to-people contacts, including such things as education and culture."

Asked what Mr Cameron will say, the spokeswoman said: "I think he will echo what the Foreign Secretary has said, that we welcome the investigation that is ongoing and we look forward to seeing the outcome of that."

Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne met Mr Bo in Chongqing on November 17, three days after the discovery of Mr Heywood's body in a hotel in the city, but is understood not to have raised the issue of the death during his visit, when he was photographed with a panda.


From Belfast Telegraph