New turn to Woolmer probe as Jamaica cops face flak

By Prasun Sonwalkar


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London : Amidst continuing speculation about the death of former Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer, the Jamaican police face considerable embarrassment that contrary to its earlier announcement that he died of murder, it now appears that he died of natural causes.

According to the Daily Mail, a review by the Metropolitan Police, led by Detective Superintendent John Sweeney, has made it clear that Woolmer died of natural causes. It has recommended further toxicology tests be conducted on Woolmer's blood.

Mark Shields, the former Scotland Yard official who is currently the deputy commissioner of the Jamaican police, has stated categorically that Wooolmer's death on March 18 during the World Cup was a murder.

It led to intense speculation in the backdrop of continued fears over match-fixing after Pakistan lost ignominiously to minnows Ireland. The Pakistan contingent was questioned while a host of conspiracy theories found ready takers.

There is no confirmation yet that Woolmer died of natural causes, but media reports say that the Jamaican police will next week announce that he died of natural causes. The investigation and statements by Shields since the death have already evoked some ridicule for the range of theories espoused.

Reports here say that the results, after tests at the UK's Forensic Science Service (FSS), failed to find a poison which would have killed him. However, it is now believed that something had made Woolmer sick on the night he died – he had vomited – and the stress proved too much for his heart.

A review of the original autopsy by Nat Carey, a Home Office pathologist, supported the suggestion of natural causes. The broken neck bone was said to be consistent with a fall on to a hard surface.

The spotlight is now set to fall on the role played during the investigation by Shields, and the conduct of Dr Ere Seshaiah, the Kingston pathologist who is now under scrutiny after a review of his autopsy report concluded he was wrong to suggest Woolmer was strangled.

Meanwhile, Karl Angell, of the Jamaican Constabulary, said Saturday they had not received any official report from the Metropolitan Police, and there were no plans for any announcements. Investigations were continuing, he said.

Speaking to the BBC, P.J. Mir, Pakistan's media manager during the World Cup, suggested that Pakistani cricket authorities should consider legal action. "I've been saying all along that Bob had died a natural death and let's not jump the gun, let's wait," he said.

"Today the Pakistan team players will be absolutely angry, because the amount of allegations that were levelled against them, or insinuations, or speculations against the Pakistan team."

Every member of the Pakistan team was interviewed and fingerprinted before returning home from the Caribbean, although police stressed at the time that they were not treated as suspects.

Former Pakistan player Asif Iqbal said that the Jamaican police had carried out a "Bollywood kind of investigation".

"Every day there were different stories in the newspaper, every day there was a different way of his being murdered. I think they made a mess of it to be very honest," he said.

One member of Jamaica's Labour Party said the case had become a "global embarrassment" for the country's police force.