Disgraced politician Bo Xilai has been formally ejected from China's Communist Party, almost one year after the mysterious murder of a British businessman sent his meteoric political ascent into a nose-dive.
On Sunday, state news agency Xinhua announced that senior leaders in Beijing, led by President Hu Jintao, had "endorsed" the decision to expel Mr Bo, the former party chief of Chongqing.
"Bo's behaviours have yielded serious consequences, badly undermined the reputation of the Party and the country, created very negative impacts at home and abroad and significantly damaged the cause of the Party and the people," Xinhua reported.
The decision comes just days before the November 8 start of China's 18th Party Congress, which will see a new generation of leaders publicly unveiled, including incoming president Xi Jinping.
China's former railway minister, Liu Zhijun, was also expelled, Xinhua said. He is now expected to face trial for corruption after being accused of "serious disciplinary violations".
Mr Bo's expulsion paves the way for a criminal trial at which he will face charges of corruption and his possible involvement in the murder of Neil Heywood in November 2011. On Sunday, Xinhua reported that Mr Bo held "major responsibility" for Mr Heywood's "intentional homicide".
Mr Bo's wife was given a suspended death sentence in August for poisoning Mr Heywood after he threatened her son. In September, Mr Bo's former police chief, Wang Lijun, was given a 15-year sentence for attempting to cover-up the crime.
But despite the convictions, widespread doubts remain over the true motives behind Mr Heywood's murder.
On Friday one of China's top scientists – the veteran forensic expert Wang Xuemei – told the Daily Telegraph she believed the officially accepted motive for Mr Heywood's death was "absurd" and claimed he had been killed to silence an "unspeakable" secret.
Kerry Brown, the director of the University of Sydney's China Studies Centre, said it was possible, but unlikely, that Mr Bo's trial might help clarify the truth.
"There's a sort of systemic suspicion that any kind of explanation is going to be no good," said Prof. Brown, who was an old acquaintance of Mr Heywood. "But maybe there will be something that will be offered that will actually nail this some sort of witness or some kind of document or something that will say, 'Ah, OK, that is what made him dangerous for them.'" "So far every step of the way something slightly unexpected has happened so we might be surprised," he added.