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'Progress on damages' for family

The lawyer for the family of a British businessman murdered by the wife of a high-flying Chinese politician said some progress has been made in efforts to seek compensation.

He Zhengsheng, a Beijing lawyer for the family of Neil Heywood, said that talks with the lawyers representing the convicted killer Gu Kailai had brought "initial results and some consensus". "We are making all efforts to achieve a final outcome," he said, without giving a timeframe.

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.

The lawyer He also said the Chinese government was helping in the process. He disputed media reports that cited Mr Heywood's mother as saying Chinese authorities had not been responsive to the family's approaches for help. "My understanding is that his mother did not issue such a statement," he said.

Mr Heywood was survived by a Chinese wife and two children, who lived in a gated community in a northern Beijing suburb and attended international schools.

His wife, Wang Lulu, has not spoken publicly about the case and the family's current whereabouts are unclear.

The former politician Bo will stand trial on Thursday on charges of corruption and abuse of power that appear limited in scope to secure his co-operation and minimise damage to the Communist Party's image.

Gu was given a suspended death sentence last year after confessing to poisoning Mr Heywood. Such sentences usually are converted to long prison terms if a convict is deemed to have repented.

Li Xiaolin, a lawyer with ties to Gu's mother, had previously said the Heywood family was seeking 30 million to 50 million yuan (£3.2 million to £5.1 million) in compensation.

But He, the Heywood family's lawyer, refused to provide details about the amount of compensation the family was seeking.

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