Part of the reason Gu Kailai wasn't sent directly to death row after being found guilty Monday in the death of Briton Neil Heywood was that he reportedly threatened her son, something his family in Britain has never denied publicly. Heywood's friends have spoken to the press on his behalf, but his family has remained steadfastly silent since April, when Heywood's death became linked to the political scandal that took down Gu's husband, Chongqing Communist Party chief Bo Xilai. "I would eat my hat if he threatened the well-being of Madame Gu’s son," one friend told The New York Times' John F. Burns on Monday. But Heywood's own family has been silent, even though privately they've "dismissed the accusations against him as absurd," Burns reported.
In April, we learned of an awkward London memorial, at which mourners were kept away from Heywood's wife and children and no mention was made of how or why the apparently healthy 41-year-old had died. On Monday, after news broke of Gu's deferred death sentence, it became clear that Gu would survive because investigators believed she had acted out of fear for her son's safety after. A court investigation "confirmed Neil Heywood threatened Bo [Guagua] verbally, making the conflict worse, but [found] no proof he had encroached on Bo [Guagua]," The Guardian's Tania Branigan reported. Still, Heywood's family remained silent, his mother and sister declining all media inquiries in Britain, and his wife and their two children remaining sequestered in Beijing. Per Burns on Monday: "The family, in remaining silent, appears to have made a priority of their concern for Mr. Heywood’s Chinese-born wife, LuLu, and their two children."