UK lawmakers ask about Briton’s murky death

Apr 20, 2012, 6:33 PM

LONDON (AP) – British lawmakers have written to Foreign Secretary William Hague asking whether a businessman who died in suspicious circumstances in China provided intelligence to the U.K. government, officials said Friday.

Lawmaker Richard Ottaway asked in a letter on behalf of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee whether Neil Heywood supplied “the British Consulate or Embassy with information, either on a formal or informal basis.”

The Foreign Office said Friday that Heywood was not a British government employee. It added it will not comment on intelligence matters, but said Hague will reply to the lawmakers’ letter in the next few days.

Heywood’s body was found Nov. 15 at a mountaintop hotel in the southwestern city of Chongqing. He had close ties to Bo Xilai, a political high-flier whose career has been derailed by the death. Authorities in China initially had said Heywood died from either excess drinking or a heart attack. His body was cremated without an autopsy.

Bo was removed as Chongqing’s Party Secretary on March 15 and has been suspended as a Politburo member amid questions over whether he tried to abuse his power to quash an investigation into his wife and a household employee over the Briton’s death.

Chinese authorities have named Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, as a suspect in Heywood’s murder amid a new inquiry into his killing.

From mid-January British diplomats had also become aware of “rumors within the British expatriate community in China that there may have been suspicious circumstances,” casting doubt on the original findings over the death.

Ottaway also asked Hague in their letter why Foreign Office staff did not inform ministers about the rumors as soon as they heard about them.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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UK lawmakers ask about Briton’s murky death