West Dorset: Writer tells of his dinner with a Chinese killer who helped him to research his book (From Bridport and Lyme Regis News)
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West Dorset: Writer tells of his dinner with a Chinese killer who helped him to research his book
THE murder case rocking the highest levels of Chinese politics with a tale of poison, corruption and a love triangle has an intriguing West Dorset link, a local writer has revealed.
It was in a tucked-away country pub at Nettlecombe that convicted murderess Gu Kailai, wife of disgraced Chinese politician, Bo Xilai, once sat, chatted and ate a meal with Richard Connaughton, military historian and writer.
Last week Gu was given a suspended death sentence after confessing to killing British businessman Neil Heywood by poisoning him with cyanide.
It is suggested Gu had an affair with Heywood amid rumours of large-scale corruption.
Her husband Bo, once set for office at the highest level in the Communist Party in China, has been ousted, sparking the greatest political turbulence in China since the bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989.
Mr Connaughton, a former Army colonel, recalls that the woman he sat opposite at the Marquis of Lorne pub in his home village almost 12 years ago was a charming, highly educated lawyer and businesswoman.
He knew her under the name Horus L Kai. She was then living in Bournemouth to help her son Bo Guagua, then around 10 years old, learn English and to get him into Harrow School, while Mr Bo was rising through the Politburo ranks in China.
He had met Gu though a friend, an Old Harrovian, also living locally, who had arranged the meeting when Mr Connaughton and his wife Gina needed to go to Manchuria to research his book on the history of the Russo-Japanese war of 1904 to 1905.
“Our contact said he would arrange for us to meet Horus, as she was then known, and we met in the Marquis of Lorne.
“If you cannot get into a place, then you cannot write about it properly. So we needed to get into Manchuria.
“Her husband had been mayor of the city of Dalian and had gone on to bigger and better things and one would not think he was in any way capable of being corrupted.
“We could not have had better support when we went to China.
“Horus arranged for a car, driver and interpreter to meet us at Dalian and they took us to the military port at Luschun, which we very much wanted to see.
“We were chaperoned the whole time and afterwards we sent a draft of the book to Horus and it was all okay.”
The trip was invaluable for his book, Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear.
Mr Connaughton says he finds the situation now surrounding Gu ‘absolutely unbelievable’.
He said: “No-one had a bad word to say about Mr Bo. Gu, or Horus was personable and charming and she helped us.”
He added that he had no way of knowing the truth of the murky web of intrigue that has since surrounded the couple, or whether Gu had been set up by the Chinese authorities.
“It is impossible to say whether it was fair or not,” he added. “I am just not in a position to second-guess.”
Mr Connaughton said that Gu was an academic who saw the value and virtue in his work in exploring the Russo-Japanese war in an intellectual sense.
He added that she later received a copy of the book.