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Chinese media: Gu confesses to killing Briton

According to China's state-run Xinhua news agency, the wife of toppled politician Bo Xilai has confessed to murdering British businessman Neil Heywood.

A combination of two photographs shows British businessman Neil Heywood (L) at an Aston Martin dealership in Beijing, May 26, 2010, and Gu Kailai, wife of China's former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai (not pictured), at a mourning held for her father-in-law Bo Yibo, former vice-chairman of the Central Advisory Commission of the Communist Party of China, in Beijing January 17, 2007. Cold-blooded killer or scapegoat, China's Lady MacBeth or over-protective mother -- Gu Kailai remains an enigma as she is tried for murder in a case that has shaken the ruling Communist Party and placed its secretive world of political privilege under intense scrutiny. The wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai will be tried this week in the central city of Hefei. There's little doubt a pliant court will find her guilty of murdering Neil Heywood, the British businessman who helped get her son into Harrow, the exclusive boarding school, and then into Oxford University. REUTERS/Stringer/Files (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA

China Mordprozess Politiker Bo Xilai Gu Kailai Kombo

Gu Kailai said on Friday in comments reported by Xinhua that a "mental breakdown" was to blame for killing Heywood, and that her case - which started Thursday - had been "like a huge stone weighing on me for more than half a year."

Gu reportedly confessed to all of the facts written in the counrt's indictment, which said that she had poisoned Heywood in November after meeting with him in a hotel room.

The motive was allegedly a business deal gone bad, and because of this, Gu said she had feared for the safety of her son.

"I will accept and calmly face any sentence and I also expect a fair and just court decision," Gu said, according to Xinhua.

Policemen confess

Gu's comments surfaced on the same day four policemen admitted that they tried to divert suspicion away from Gu in the immediate aftermath of the murder.

The trial of the police officers comes one day after the hearing for Gu and her assistant Zhang Xiaojun, who was also on trial for Heywood's murder.

Police officers Guo Weiguo, Li Yang, Wang Pengfei and Wang Zhi were accused of "abusing the law and practicing favoritism" for supposedly trying to conceal Gu's alleged complicity in Heywood's death. Foreign media has not been allowed to attend the proceedings.

Gu is the wife of Bo Xilai, the former Communist Party chief of the southwestern megacity of Chongqing. Bo was considered a controversial rising star within the party, who attracted support among leftists for his advocacy of economic policies reminiscent of Mao Zedong.

Corridors of power shaken

Bo was sacked by the Communist Party's 25-member Politburo and removed from his post in Chongqing last April in the aftermath of the scandal surrounding his wife. No charges have been leveled against Bo, but the party said it was investigating him for "serious breaches of discipline."

Hong Kong's daily South China Morning Post newspaper reported on Friday that the former Chongqing police chief, Wang Lijun, could also stand trial as early as next week in the southwestern city of Chengdu. Wang sought refuge in Chengdu's US consulate in February, after he allegedly informed Bo that his wife was suspected of murder.

Wang's flight precipitated the scandal that ultimately resulted in Bo's political demise. Prior to this, Heywood's death had been attributed to a heart attack caused by excessive alcohol consumption. The former police chief could face charges that he committed treason.

China's Communist Party is approaching its 10-year handover of power, in which seven of its most senior leaders will step aside to make room for a new generation in its highest ranks. The controversy surrounding Bo and his wife Gu has exposed divisions within the party ahead of the power change.

slk,mz/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)