The most spectacular trial that China has ever witnessed closed with its biggest shock of all as Bo Xilai revealed a tragic love affair between his wife and his city Chongqing’s police chief.
Defiant until the end of his trial on charges of corruption and abuse of power, the 64-year-old fallen leader brushed his lawyers aside to make a final oration that displayed all the bravura that made him such a magnetic figure, and caused China’s other leaders such anxiety.
Behind the biggest drama to hit China's Communist Party since the protests in Tiananmen Square, Mr Bo said, was a story of how Chongqing’s police chief, Wang Lijun, had fallen inexorably in love with his wife, Gu Kailai.
When Mr Bo caught the pair, he claimed, the police chief of the city he ruled had fled his wrath, running to the safety of the United States consulate in a city 160 miles away, a treason which led to their mutual downfall.
“Wang was secretly in love with Gu Kailai for a long time,” Mr Bo told the court, adding that the police chief had declared his passion in a love letter. “In the letter it said he had always had feelings for Kailai and he could not help himself. He even slapped himself in the face eight times.”
“You are acting crazily,” Gu told her suitor, according to Mr Bo. “No, I used to be crazy, but now I am sane,” Wang allegedly replied.
Mr Bo said Wang had visited his home every day because he was drawn to his wife, and suggested the relationship did not go unrequited.
“They had an extremely special relationship. I was fed up with it,” said Mr Bo. “Gu Kailai even brought Wang’s shoes into my house. I told Zhang Xiaojun (an aide) to get rid of them immediately”.
But when Mr Bo uncovered the relationship, his city’s police chief knew he had made a potentially fatal mistake. “He knew my character. He hurt my family. He hurt my feelings,” Mr Bo said.
There had long been rumours in Chongqing that the previously close bond between Mr Bo and Wang was shattered when they became tangled in a love triangle.
But the allegations by Mr Bo raise new and intriguing questions about the planning of, and the motive for, the murder of Neil Heywood. Wang had previously confessed that he helped Gu plan Mr Heywood’s killing.
Mr Bo’s tale of mad passion caused an instant sensation on the Chinese internet, with one popular post suggesting that the lovers were doomed from the start: Gu was a Scorpio while Wang was a Capricorn and therefore incompatible.
Before revealing the drama in his household, Mr Bo had earlier ridiculed the prosecution’s closing statement, saying: “Even the lowest level television soap cannot have this kind of plot,” he said.
Responding to accusations that he must have been aware of the luxurious lifestyle his family was living, under his nose, Mr Bo asked: “Is Gu Kailai a civilised woman or not?
“Did she want me to love her or not? Would she have come and bothered me with these trifles every day? I was the governor of Liaoning province,” he added.
To accusations that his 25-year-old son, Guagua, spent huge sums travelling the world and carousing, Mr Bo said: “If Guagua kept asking for money for fancy watches and cars and international travel, if he wanted us to pay for his friends and owed the bank huge sums of money, would I have loved such a son?”.
Instead, Mr Bo said, his family was so frugal that he was still wore padded winter trousers that his mother had bought for him in the 1960s.
Mr Bo also repeated that much of the evidence against him had been coerced.
“All of the written confessions I signed before were made against my will,” he said, adding that he had hoped, by confessing, to win rehabilitation.
“I had a hope deep in my heart that I would not be expelled from the Party, I would keep membership and I would keep my political life.”
It was unclear whether Mr Bo’s impressive rhetoric would win him more public support, with hundreds of thousands of people reading his statement on the live-feed from court.
But it did little to help his legal case, and his lawyers even admitted that it was only after 2005, when Mr Bo was promoted to higher office, that corruption had stopped. “He woke up,” they said.
Mr Bo’s defiance may also cost him dearly, in the form of a tougher sentence.
“He not only denied crimes that have been fully backed up with solid evidence, but he also recanted his earlier testimony,” the prosecutors said. “His attitude is to refuse to confess wrongdoing... he should receive harsh punishment.”
If convicted, Mr Bo technically faces the death penalty, although a member of China’s Communist Politburo has never been executed.
As he made his final statement, perhaps the last statement he will ever make in public, Mr Bo said: “I know I am not a perfect man, I am subjective and easily angered. I have made some serious mistakes and problems. I failed to manage my family.”
The court will reconvene at a later date to reveal the verdict.