The revelation in the Wall Street Journal raises new questions about the motives for Mr Heywood’s killing, and about the reaction to his death by the British authorities, who delayed for several months before asking for an investigation.
According to unnamed sources, the 41-year-old businessman was not an MI6 officer, was not specifically tasked, and was not paid.
But, according to the report, he was a “wilful and knowing informant”, regularly meeting with a man he knew to be a spy, at least once also in the company of a member of the House of Lords.
His MI6 contact once described him as “useful” to a former colleague, according to the WSJ, adding: “A little goes a long way”.
Mr Heywood was perfectly placed to be of use to MI6. He had been a member of Mr Bo’s inner circle for many years as the Chinese politician rose up through the Communist party.
He helped the family with all sorts of requests, especially in their dealings in the UK. One friend described him as a “sort of butler”, another as a “bag man”.
He parlayed his access to Mr Bo into a career, earning retainers from the likes of Aston Martin and Hakluyt, the corporate intelligence company, as well as other firms keen to do business in Chongqing and who wanted a connection to the city’s leader.
Mr Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, who was convicted earlier this year of murdering the Briton, was his daughter’s godmother. According to the former police chief of Chongqing, Mrs Gu said she had “killed a spy” at the time of Mr Heywood’s death.
Mr Heywood’s ties to the family had become increasingly distant as Mr Bo moved closer to the top table of Chinese politics: the Politburo Standing Committee. The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr Heywood had not met with Mr Bo for a year before his death.
In the knowledge that his relationship might have been drawing to a close, he had asked the Bo’s for money, a final pay-off, according to two of his friends.
And when he was summoned to Chongqing on November 13 last year, he was nervous about how a meeting might unfold. He was found dead in a hotel room in the city shortly afterwards.
Nevertheless, the Chinese investigators struggled to pin down a firm motive for his murder, first suggesting that Mr Heywood had threatened to expose the flow of Bo family cash overseas and then switching tack to suggest he had kidnapped and threatened Mr Bo’s son, Guagua, after a property deal turned sour.
The revelation that he may have been an MI6 informant also has implications for the Chinese authorities, who are likely to have been watching Mr Heywood, and tailing him in Chongqing, if they were aware that he was providing information to the intelligence services.Source: The Telegraph “Neil Heywood ‘was MI6 informant'”
- Neil Heywood ‘briefed MI6 on Bo Xilai’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Murdered Briton in China Political Scandal Was MI6 Informant: Report (blogs.voanews.com)
- China’s investigation of Bo Xilai extends to State Security Ministry spy scandal (chinadailymail.com)