The Curious Case of Neil Heywood, British…Something.

Neil Heywood
Photo: AP

You might call him a spy. MI6 says he’s not in their employ. Which may certainly be true as he may never have been paid for passing information. If, indeed, he did pass information of any import. But Heywood was an odd duck, even before his poisoning death at the hands of the wife of Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai. According to the Wall Street Journal,

Cruising around Beijing in a silver Jaguar with “007” on the license plate, Neil Heywood seemed to relish the air of intrigue that surrounded him.

In meetings, the British consultant hinted about his connections to Bo Xilai—the onetime Communist Party highflier—but often he would refuse to hand over a business card. He spoke Mandarin, smoked heavily and worked part time for a dealer of Aston Martin cars, the British brand driven by James Bond. Some thought him a fantasist, others a fraud.

The irony here is that while the real “007” might be killed over an affair or over his spying activities, Heywood’s murder seems to have been motivated by something far more mundane:

Neither Chinese nor British officials have suggested Mr. Heywood was killed because of his MI6 links. A Chinese court found Ms. Gu guilty in August of killing him because she thought he threatened her son over a business dispute, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Heywood was murdered almost exactly a year ago. In the spring of this year, Bo was ousted from the Politburo when the scandal became big news and in August, his wife was convicted of murder.

So Heywood was a bit of an enigma in life. And in death, despite causing a major brouhaha, he remains one. Perhaps he would have enjoyed that.

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