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Politician's wife admitted poisoning Brit, report says

BEIJING -- The wife of a disgraced top Chinese politician was a depressed woman on medication but a willful murderer who poisoned a British businessman while in fear for her son's life, official media said Friday in what appeared to be a prelude to her conviction and punishment after a seven-hour trial.

The official Xinhua News Agency -- in a 3,400-word report that was its most detailed accounting of the scandal that has shaken the country's leadership -- said Gu Kailai and her co-defendant "confessed to intentional murder" in the death of her business associate Neil Heywood last November.

It said evidence showed she used cyanide to poison him in a Chongqing hotel room but also describes her as depressed and fearful that Heywood would harm her family -- factors that may bring leniency in her sentence.

Gu's arrest and the ouster of husband Bo Xilai, the Communist Party boss of Chongqing until March, sparked the biggest political turbulence in China since the put-down of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

The court in Hefei, in eastern China's Anhui province, that heard her trial on Thursday said a verdict against Gu and the family aide accused as an accomplice would be delivered later. Their trial was followed Friday by the trial of four senior Chongqing police officers accused of helping Gu cover up the crime.

Xinhua said Gu, 53, accepted all the facts in the indictment and was ready to accept her punishment, saying: "The tragedy which was created by me was not only extended to Neil, but also to several families."

Gu said Heywood wrote a letter of self-introduction in about 2005 when her 24-year-old son Bo Guagua was studying in Britain. They then got involved in a land project that never got off the ground. According to Xinhua, she said Heywood later got into a dispute with her and her son over payment and other issues and she "believed Heywood had threatened the personal safety of her son and decided to kill Heywood."

It said that according to testimony prosecutors presented, Gu said: "To me, that was more than a threat. It was real action that was taking place. I must fight to my death to stop the craziness of Neil Heywood."

Xinhua said that family aide Zhang Xiaojun had also confessed and said "sorry" to Heywood's relatives.

A guilty verdict is all but assured against Gu and Zhang and carries the potential punishment of 10 years in prison up to a death sentence.

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