Gu jailed for murder of Briton

The wife of a disgraced Chinese politician has been given a suspended death sentence after confessing to killing a British businessman by poisoning him with cyanide in a case which rocked the country's top political leadership.

A suspended sentence is usually commuted to life in prison after two years. An amendment to China's criminal law made in 2011 said criminals with life sentences who show proper conduct can have their life sentences cut to 25 years in jail.

Sentenced along with Gu Kailai was a family aide who was given nine years' imprisonment for his involvement in the murder of Neil Heywood, a former family associate, Hefei Intermediate People's Court official Tang Yigan told reporters. Four policemen accused of covering up the crime were given sentences from five to 11 years.

The sentencing closes one chapter of China's biggest political crisis in two decades, but also leaves open questions over the fate of Gu's husband, Bo Xilai, who was dismissed in March as the powerful Communist Party boss of the major city of Chongqing for unspecified violations.

Bo's dismissal and his wife's murder trial come at a sensitive time in China, with party leaders handing over power soon to a younger generation. At one time Bo was considered a candidate for a top position.

State media said Gu, 53, confessed to intentional homicide at a one-day trial on August 9. The reports - the court was closed to international media - said she and Mr Heywood had a dispute over money and Mr Heywood allegedly threatened her son.

Gu was accused of luring the victim to a Chongqing hotel, getting him drunk and then pouring cyanide into his mouth. Court official Mr Tang said Gu and the family aide, Zhang Xiaojun, told the court they would not appeal.

He Zhengsheng, a lawyer for the Heywood family who attended the sentencing, said: "We respect the court's ruling today."

State broadcaster CCTV showed Gu dressed in a white blouse and a black trouser suit briefly addressing the court from inside the dock surrounded by waist-high wooden columns. "This verdict is just. It shows special respect for the law, reality and life," she said in calm, measured phrases.

Mr Tang said the court considered Gu's evidence against others, her confession and repentance, and her psychological impairment as mitigating factors in sentencing. But he said it rejected claims that Mr Heywood's threats had prompted the crime, saying there was no evidence he intended to make good on them.