China's most high-profile political court case in decades has been shrouded in secrecy, as the wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai arrived in court in Hefei, surrounded by high security, charged with the murder of British businessman, Neil Heywood.
Bo, party secretary of the city of Chongqing, was one of China's most charismatic and promising politicians, tipped for high office, before becoming involved in the political mess which has seen his wife Gu Kailai and aide Zhang Xiaojun charged with poisoning Heywood in a supposed row over money.
Gu is said to have feared for the safety of her son because of the dispute, according to her defence team, who said she had been unable to control her actions and that the murder charge would not be contested.
Gu Kailai in court in Hefei, for the one-day murder trial
The trial began in the aftermath of a real storm, Typhoon Haikui, and police in black waterproofs, lashed by wind and rain, lined up outside the courtroom.
Chinese state media reported relatives and friends of Neil Heywood and the two defendants attended, with more than 140 people at the the trial.
According to Xinhua Zhang invited Heywood to travel with him to a holiday resort in Chongqing from Beijing.
The report said Kailai met Heywood in his hotel room for a drink. After Heywood was drunk, vomited and asked for water, but instead, Kailai gave him poison to drink, provided to her by Zhang.
A Chinese official said the case was now over, after the one-day hearing, but no date has been set for a verdict.
Gu Kailai's murder trial has been reported widely in the West and Hong Kong - but not in China
In a country where news and information are micro-managed, Bo and Gu's names are banned search terms and most domestic reports have come directly from state news agencies. Foreign media was banned from Thursday's trial.
Many in China remain unaware of the details of the case which has rocked the foundations of the country's ruling elite.
Beijing lawyer Ma Wenbin said on his Weibo: "The princess's trial has stirred up much trouble in Hefei even before it begins. The judiciary should face it with an open mind."
Heywood's death in November 2011 was initially blamed on a heart attack, or heavy drinking.
Since the accusations came to light, Bo has been suspended from the party for alleged "discipline violations", but his political downfall is directly linked to the disgrace of Gu.
Bo Xilai, right, then China's Minister of Commerce, and his wife Gu Kailai
Heywood, who tutored Bo Xilai's son Bo Guagua to get him into Harrow, had lived in China for a decade and was close to the aspiring politician, despite having fallen out with his wife some years before.
British media have suggested the two may have been lovers.
Heywood's Chinese wife Lulu initially declined an autopsy, and his body was cremated.
Prosecutors are said to be relying on just a sliver of heart muscle as physical proof of the poisoning.
The case is believed to be the first murder of a British national in China for 30 years.
Police officers stand guard at the Hefei City Intermediate People's Court where the murder trial of Gu Kailai takes place
But a guilty verdict is practically a foregone conclusion, as China's state news agency Xinhua reported: "The facts of the two defendants' crime are clear, and the evidence is irrefutable and substantial.
"Therefore, the two defendants should be charged with intentional homicide."
In China, almost 99% of hearings end in a conviction and Gu has not been allowed to appoint her own lawyer. If convicted, the two defendants could face the death penalty.
In an email to CNN, the couple's son Bo Guagua wrote in an email: "As I was cited as a motivating factor for the crimes accused of my mother, I have already submitted my witness statement.
"I have faith that facts will speak for themselves."
Heywood's mother Ann, told reporters in London they had behaved "appallingly" in reporting the scandal, as media allegations swirled around her son, including that he was involved in money laundering and that he was a British spy.
Earlier, she told the Los Angeles Times she was not expecting justice. "There are no human rights in China," she said.
VIDEO IN COURT (CHINESE)
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