|Event:||ICC World Cup 2006/07|
DateLine: 12th June 2007
Former Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer was not murdered but died of natural causes, Jamaican police said in a bombshell announcement Tuesday nearly three months after his death during the World Cup tournament.
After first treating Woolmer's death by asphyxiation as homicide, sparking feverish speculation about the malign presence of gambling mafias in the game, police said there was now no reason to suspect foul play or match-fixing.
South African and Canadian pathologists had concurred with a finding by a British forensics expert that "Mr Woolmer died of natural causes," Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) commissioner Lucius Thomas said.
In further toxicology tests, "no substance was found to indicate that Bob Woolmer was poisoned," he told a news conference.
"The JCF accepts these findings and has now closed its investigation into the death of Mr Bob Woolmer," Thomas said.
Commenting on the match-fixing suspicions, he added that "neither the ICC (International Cricket Council) nor the JCF have found any evidence of any impropriety by players, match officials nor management during the investigation of Mr Bob Woolmer's death."
An initial autopsy report after Woolmer's death on March 18 proved inconclusive, but a pathology report later indicated he died of asphyxia as a result of "manual strangulation," which led the police to treat the death as murder.
The claims rocked the world of cricket amid speculation about links to an alleged gambling mafia.
Pakistani players expressed anger and relief over the news, with some calling for the Caribbean investigators to be sued.
The Pakistan squad were all fingerprinted and provided DNA samples after Woolmer, 58, was found dead in his hotel room, the day after the team were knocked out of the World Cup by minnows Ireland.
Then-captain Inzamam-ul-Haq - one of three squad members who were questioned twice after police alleged Woolmer was strangled - said there was no need to reopen wounds with legal action.
"I don't feel court action would be of any use now. The players in general and I, as captain in particular, went through hell and those were the most terrible days of our lives," Inzamam told AFP.
"We must be ready to handle such things better in future by involving the government and the (Pakistan Cricket) Board from the initial stages," added Inzamam, who retired as skipper after the tournament.
The Jamaican police defended their handling of the case, which had appeared at first to cast suspicion on members of the Pakistan team, arguing they could not "second-guess" the first pathologist's report.
"This was an extraordinary case," said Thomas's deputy commissioner Mark Shields, a former Scotland Yard officer from Britain, in response to hostile questioning about the police's conduct.
"We are in a very difficult situation. All we could do was look at what we had... and seek help from elsewhere, which is what we did," he said.
"Murder investigations are not like TV series, where everything is wrapped up in 45 minutes. All we could do was conduct a thorough investigation and not rush."
Detectives from Scotland Yard and Pakistan were brought in to review the investigation, according to the JCF, which said it had interviewed nearly 400 people and taken almost 250 statements.
The force "adopted a thoroughly professional investigation where nothing was left to chance. Every effort has been made by the Jamaica Constabulary Force to seek the truth surrounding Bob Woolmer's death," Thomas said.
"My hope is that despite the trauma of the last two and half months, Mrs (Gill) Woolmer and her sons will be confident that the JCF has done all it can to establish the truth surrounding the death of her husband."
(Article: Copyright © 2007 AFP)