Thu, Jun 14, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Pakistan coach Woolmer died of natural causes

AFP , MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA

Former Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer was not murdered but died of natural causes, Jamaican police said on Tuesday, closing an investigation into his sudden death that rocked the cricketing world.

Woolmer, 58, was found dead in his hotel room in Kingston, Jamaica on March 18, the day after Ireland handed the highly rated Pakistani team a surprising defeat, crashing them out of the cricket World Cup tournament.

Days after his death police announced they were treating the case as a homicide, saying an autopsy report showed he had been strangled. The report sparked feverish speculation about the role of gambling mafias in the game.

But after three independent pathologists' reports, a barrage of toxicology tests and interviews with hundreds of people, police on Tuesday ruled out any foul play or match-fixing in the death of the former England Test player.

"Mr Woolmer died of natural causes," Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) commissioner Lucius Thomas said, referring to a finding by a British forensics expert that was also supported by South African and Canadian pathologists.

Toxicology tests also ruled out another earlier theory that Woolmer had been poisoned.

"The JCF accepts these findings and has now closed its investigation into the death of Mr Bob Woolmer," Thomas said.

Neither Jamaican police nor the International Cricket Council (ICC) "have found any evidence of any impropriety by players, match officials nor management during the investigation of Mr Bob Woolmer's death," Thomas said.

Police interviewed some 400 people and took statements from 250 others during the investigation. Detectives from Scotland Yard and Pakistan were also involved in the inquiry.

"We are relieved that it has been officially announced that Bob died of natural causes," Woolmer's widow, Gill, said from her home in Cape Town, South Africa.

"It is now over," she said.

According to reports in Jamaica last month, Scotland Yard detectives had determined that the coach died of a heart attack.

An initial autopsy report after Woolmer's death proved inconclusive, but a pathology report days later indicated he died of "asphyxia as a result of manual strangulation," which had led police to treat his death as murder.

Pakistani players said they were relieved at the news, but some were angry enough to call for the Caribbean investigators to be sued.

The entire Pakistan squad was fingerprinted and ordered to provide DNA samples following Woolmer's death.

Jamaican police sought on Tuesday to defend themselves against accusations of incompetence, saying they had only sought to be thorough.

"This was an extraordinary case," said Thomas's deputy commissioner Mark Shields, a former Scotland Yard officer.

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.

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