The British government has been urging an investigation into the death in November of Neil Heywood. The 41-year-old businessman’s family had said they believed he died of natural causes, though reports from China after his death said he had been drinking – even though he was not known as a heavy drinker.
Mr Heywood ran a research company in China, Heywood Boddington Associates, and had done occasional work for Hakluyt, a corporate intelligence company set up by former members of MI6.
His relationship with Bo Xilai flourished after he was taken on to teach the politician’s son English. However, some sources in Chongqing said he latterly acted as a “Bai Shoutao” – literally “white glove” – brokering business deals for a powerful Chinese politician not supposed to get involved in commercial activity.
After flying to Chongqing for a meeting, reportedly with Mr Bo or a member of his family, Mr Heywood was found dead in his hotel room. A medical examination suggested he had been drinking and had died of heart disease.
The Foreign Office gave consular help to his grieving family and Mr Heywood was swiftly cremated, apparently at his family’s request.
Foreign secretary William Hague yesterday welcomed the reopened investigation, saying: “We now look forward to seeing those investigations take place.”