Murdered British businessman ‘was MI6 operative’ (we told you so)

An investigation by The Wall Street Journal has concluded that Neil Heywood, the British businessman who was murdered in China last November, was an active informant for British intelligence at the time of his death. The news appears to confirm intelNews’ assessment of April 2012 that Heywood was in fact connected with British intelligence. A highly successful financial consultant and fluent Chinese speaker who had lived in China for over a decade, Heywood was found dead on November 14, 2011, in his room at the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel in Chongqing. His death led to the dramatic downfall of Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai, a husband-and-wife team of political celebrities who were found guilty in a Chinese court of killing the British businessman. Immediately after Heywood’s death, there was widespread speculation that he may have been a spy for MI6, Britain’s external intelligence service. On April 27, 2012, I argued that I was not aware of anyone “with serious knowledge of intelligence issues who was not completely certain, or did not deeply suspect, that Heywood had indeed collaborated with British intelligence at some stage during the past decade”. I wrote this in the face of an official denial by British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who had said earlier in the week that “Heywood was not an employee of the British government in any capacity”. Now an extensive investigation by The Wall Street Journal has concluded that the dead British businessman had been an MI6 operative “for more than a year” prior to his death. The paper said it concluded that based on several interviews with unnamed “current and former British officials” as well as with close friends of the murdered man. One source told The Journal that Heywood had been willingly and consciously recruited by an MI6 officer, who met with him on a regular basis in China. Heywood allegedly provided the MI6 officer with inside information on Xilai and other senior Chinese government officials. The article quotes an unnamed British official as saying that Heywood’s MI6 handler once described him as “useful” to a former colleague. According to the paper, Heywood’s MI6 work does not technically contradict the British Foreign secretary’s statement that the late businessman had not been “an employee of the British government”. This is because, according to sources close to Heywood, he was not paid for his services, nor was he ever tasked with specific intelligence operations. Rather he acted as an all-purpose informant, providing general background information on a voluntary basis. The Journal contacted the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which said simply that no British officials had been in contact with Haywood in the 48 hours prior to his death.

10 Responses to Murdered British businessman ‘was MI6 operative’ (we told you so)

  1. Pete says:

    Yep. My suspicion as well. As I commented:

    “Pete says:

    April 29, 2012 at 02:11

    Interesting choice of words by Secretary Hague “…Mr. Heywood was not an employee of the British government..’

    That leaves the possibility that Mr Heywood was a Contractor working for the British government or an agent/informant passing on information to an employee of the British government.”

  2. It could so easily be just a ‘While you’re out there, if you see anything you think interesting, let us know old chap…’ arrangement.

    Hardly what one could accurately call an ‘agent’ or ‘spy;’ more of a resource, I would have thought.

  3. K Ryan says:

    Paul B above probably has it right. If intell agencies counted every patriotic citizen abroad who shared some gossip over coffee as an employee, their pension funds would be bankrupt.

  4. Michael Mullikin says:

    Are you really sure that he was a BRITISH agent? There are other possibilities. And the terms “spy,” “informant,” and “agent” all seem a little dramatic for someone who, at most, was an overt source.

  5. The Journal claims that Mr. Heywood was a business consultant, who also worked part-time for an Aston Martin dealer, but drove a silver Jag. Question: 1) If he was a legit business consultant, why have to work part time at the Aston dealership? 2) If he did indeed work for the Aston dealership, why did he drive a Jag? 3) Finally, isn’t having a “007” license plate breach MI6 protocol?

    Like Roy Bland, Mr. Heywood seemed to live by the maxim of, “You scratch my conscience, I’ll drive your Jag.” They killed him for it, it seems.

    – MDA

  6. Kidd says:

    no matter his true status , he may have stumbled upon something that called for desperate measures. the man who knew too much

  7. AlbertE. says:

    Probably an agent more than anything else. NOT on the payroll perhaps but providing background info or reports of some sort. And if the Chinese knew about him they would not have killed him but used him to feed disinformation to Six.

  8. intelNews says:

    @Paul Beaumont and AlbertE.: Based on The Journal description, it’s difficult to disagree with your assessment that Heywood was more of an occasional background source –or perhaps an ‘agent of influence’– than an asset or a spy. However, this assessment applies to the time of his death. As I have argued before, I am of the opinion that Heywood’s connections with MI6 had been far closer in the past, and I think this will eventually surface in media reports. [JF]

  9. gaian says:

    the reason it is true that he was not an agent of the british government is because the intelligence agencies belong to the crown. things like this are becoming more important. the crown owns one-sixth of the surface of the earth.

    see this one,too:

    Major Changes in Australian, NZ Spy Agencies


    scotland yard facing severe budget cuts, repurposing while investigating elite child sex ring

  10. Guido says:

    May he rest in peace, what he was or did.

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