A BRITISH businessman whose murder triggered China's biggest political scandal in decades had been informing MI6 of the private affairs of one of the most powerful families in the Communist Party in the last year of his life.

A report in The Wall Street Journal said that Neil Heywood had "knowingly" and regularly provided British intelligence with information obtained from his friendship with the family of Bo Xilai, the now disgraced Chongqing party chief.

Heywood's unpaid role appears to have existed behind a persona crafted by the Briton to resemble something from spy fiction. The numberplate on his silver Jaguar included the digits "007" and he took on occasional work as a local "ambassador" for Aston Martin.