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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 June 2007, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Damage of the 'Woolmer murder' saga

Soutik Biswas covered the cricket World Cup for the BBC News website. He looks at the fall-out after Jamaican police say that Bob Woolmer was not, after all, murdered.

Bob Woolmer
Woolmer was widely respected in the world of cricket
The announcement by the Jamaican police that Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer died of natural causes brings to a bizarre end one of the most intriguing 'murder' investigations of recent times.

It is nearly three months since Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room in Jamaica, following Pakistan's humiliating exit from the World Cup at the hands of the cricketing minnows of Ireland.

Jamaican police had continually insisted that Woolmer was murdered, despite the lack of successful leads in the investigation. So the volte face in now saying that he died of natural causes is baffling.

A post-mortem report said Woolmer died of "manual strangulation".

It rocked the world of cricket. Fingers of suspicion were even pointed at the Pakistani team. The news overshadowed the World Cup, supposedly cricket's showcase tournament.

'Creating mistrust'

The affair raises a number of uncomfortable questions.

How could the Jamaican police have so badly botched up what it had consistently described as the "most high profile" crime investigation on the island in recent times?

Inzamam-ul-Haq, former Pakistan captain, in a Woolmer memorial meeting
The Pakistani cricket team was fingerprinted

Why did the authorities allow all the rumours of the cause of death - poisoning had become the pet theory - and its supposed links with match-fixing to snowball out of proportion?

How must the Pakistan cricket team feel after so much press coverage suggested a link to Woolmer's death and possible match-fixing after the team's catastrophic failure against Ireland?

Could the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit have made it clearer earlier that it had found no links to Woolmer's death and any supposed corruption?

Every member of the Pakistani team was interviewed before returning home from the Caribbean, although police insisted at the time that they were not suspects. Even the Irish players had to supply DNA to the police.

Woolmer's family has had to deal not just with his death, but with the traumas of the murder theories, and the long delay before his body could be returned to South Africa for a proper funeral.

Conspiracy theories

Woolmer was found dead in his hotel in Jamaica on 18 March after Pakistan's first-round exit from the World Cup.

Kingston's Pegasus Hotel
Woolmer was found on the 12th floor of Kingston's Pegasus hotel

Days later Mark Shields, one of Jamaica's deputy police commissioners, announced at a news conference that the 58-year-old former England Test cricketer had been murdered.

That triggered a slew of theories in the media that Woolmer had been poisoned - by a deadly plant, herbicide, aconite or even snake venom - before being strangled.

One rumour had it that a champagne bottle picked up by the coach from a team member's room might have been spiked with a poison.

Other reports said the murder was linked to cricket betting. It was suggested that a book Woolmer was writing was going to name names.

To add to the confusion, the results of toxicology tests were not published, but journalists seemed to be told what the results were, adding fuel to the poisoning theories.

In the meantime, police continued to appeal for witnesses. CCTV footage from the hotel was even sent to Scotland Yard for analysis.

Now police say Woolmer was not murdered after all.

Perhaps that will be the end of the matter. Yet it's hard to believe that everyone will accept this new account of Bob Woolmer's death.




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