Neil Heywood China death: Foreign Office defends response

Neil Heywood
Image caption Neil Heywood had lived in China for about 10 years

The Foreign Office has defended its response to the suspected murder of a British businessman in China.

Neil Heywood's death in November was initially thought to be due to "excessive alcohol consumption".

But the Foreign Office said it asked Chinese authorities to investigate the case as it became more concerned.

Gu Kailai, wife of disgraced senior Communist Party official, Bo Xilai, is being probed for "intentional homicide".

It comes as Conservative MP Mark Pritchard calls on the government to answer a number of questions in Parliament about Mr Heywood's death, including when the UK embassy was first informed.

He has tabled written questions for the Foreign Office to answer on Tuesday when parliament returns from the Easter break.

'Disturbing case'

Mr Heywood, who had lived in China for 10 years and spoke fluent Mandarin, lived with his Chinese wife and their two children.

The 41-year-old was found dead on November 15 in a hotel room in the city of Chongqing, central China.

Chinese officials initially said he had died of "excessive alcohol consumption" and that explanation was at first accepted by Mr Heywood's family and the British embassy.

Image caption Bo Xilai and his wife Gu Kailai are both under investigation

But friends later questioned this and the British government then asked the Chinese authorities to reopen the investigation, which they did.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "As we became more concerned about this case, including following suggestions from the business community, we took the decision to ask the Chinese authorities to launch an investigation.

"We acted as soon as we thought concerns about the case justified it.

"We are pleased that the Chinese have now launched that investigation. We were in constant contact with the family throughout and kept them informed of our actions."

Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday during a Far East tour that he was pleased the Chinese authorities were taking action.

He said: "We did ask the Chinese to hold an investigation and we are pleased that they are now doing that.

"It is very important we get to the truth of what happened in this very disturbing case, this very tragic case."

Mr Heywood was a friend of the family of Bo Xilai, a former rising star in Chinese politics who served as local party chief in Chongqing.

State media reported on Tuesday that Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun, an orderly at Mr Bo's home, had been arrested.

Meanwhile Mr Bo has been suspended from the Communist Party's 25-member Politburo amid allegations of "serious discipline violations".

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