CHONGQING, China - In a plot worthy of a spy novel, the downfall of high-flying Chinese politician Bo Xilai began when a British businessman was found dead in a hilltop hotel room.
The scandal that subsequently unfolded in Chongqing, a steamy riverside megacity, saw Bo's police chief flee to a US consulate and his wife convicted of murder, and finally brought Bo's own political aspirations to an ignoble end.
Chongqing, in China's southwest, has thick clumps of skyscrapers and an urban population of more than 16 million, swollen each day by opportunity-seekers arriving from the countryside.
Projects spearheaded by Bo, who became the city's leader and one of China's top 25 politicians in 2007, are everywhere, from rows of low-cost apartments to new bridges and a massive light-rail system - all part of his attempt to gain political momentum to catapult him even higher within the power structure of the Chinese Communist Party.
Winding roads lead to the Lijing Holiday Hotel atop a forested hill. There, in one of a series of villas with sweeping views of Chongqing's high-rise city centre, Bo's wife Gu Kailai is said to have poisoned Briton Neil Heywood.
A steady stream of wealthy visitors dine on steak and yellow croaker fish in the hotel's rustic restaurant - but staff denied the existence of the room where court documents say the murder occurred.
"There is no room 1605," a hotel receptionist who declined to be named told AFP. "I do not know what you are talking about."
Bo, the son of one of China's most revered revolutionary generals, met Heywood when he was mayor of the eastern port city of Dalian in the late 1990s.
Prosecutors told a court during his trial that businessmen had paid for foreign trips and transferred millions to his family in return for government support during the period.
An English teacher turned business consultant who was fond of linen suits, Heywood cultivated an aristocratic air reflecting his former attendance at the elite British boarding school Harrow.
He became close to Bo as well as his wife, a prominent lawyer, and guided their son Bo Guagua as he started studies at the £22,400 ($35,000) a year Papplewick prep school in Britain, before going on to Harrow, Oxford and Harvard.
As his connections with Bo and Gu deepened, Heywood reportedly bought an expensive villa in Beijing, and a Jaguar sports car with the licence plate "007".
Bo's family, meanwhile, is said to have amassed property in France, and luxury apartments in Britain and the United States. Reports say Heywood helped invest millions from their fortune in foreign assets.
But as Gu became closer to Bo's right hand man in Chongqing, Wang Lijun - a flamboyant martial-arts trained policeman from Inner Mongolia -- Heywood's relationship with her began to sour.
The two clashed over payments on a business deal, according to the official account of Gu's trial. In November of 2011, in the dingy room at the Lijing Holiday Hotel, Gu plied Heywood with alcohol, and poured a cyanide-based poison in his mouth, a Chinese court heard.
When Heywood's body was discovered, he was diagnosed as having suffered a heart attack before being quickly cremated.