The 41-year-old Old Harrovian was a vastly experienced China hand, who advised Chinese and Western businesses. He was an entrepreneur with an eye for deals and his insight was much sought after, as were his connections to Chinese officials, including Bo Xilai, one of the most powerful rising stars of the Communist party.
But it also emerged on Tuesday that he was an adviser to Hakluyt, a corporate intelligence firm founded by former MI6 officers. Hakluyt has confirmed that Heywood prepared periodic reports for it, but said he had not been working for the company at the time of his death.
A friend who has known him since childhood described Heywood as "like a character in a Graham Greene novel - always immaculate, very noble, very erudite".
"Privately, I always wondered if he was in MI6," said the friend, who added that there was no evidence to suggest he had been a spy.
"He had his fingers in many pies, and often it is quite easy to make someone like that the scapegoat, to make them look suspicious, but he was not at all mysterious to the people who knew him."