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Mafia suspected in Woolmer's murder

Jamaica Police confirm that Pak coach Woolmer was strangled in a hotel room.
IANS | By Adriel Richard, Kingston (jamaica) Kingston (jamaica)
UPDATED ON MAR 23, 2007 08:22 PM IST

Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer was strangled to death in his hotel room, Jamaica Police said, with speculation rife that he was eliminated by the betting mafia as he 'knew too much'.

The police said one or more people could have committed the murder.

The confirmation came in a statement from Jamaica's Commissioner of Police Lucius Thomas and read by Karl Angell, director of communications of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, where Woolmer was discovered unconscious in his room by housekeeping staff on Sunday morning.

"The Jamaican Police are now in possession of the official post mortem report from the government pathologist, who conducted the autopsy on the late Woolmer," he told the Caribbean Media Corp (CMC).

"The pathologist's report states that Woolmer's death was due to asphyxia as a result of manual strangulation. In these circumstances, the matter of Woolmer's death is now being treated by the Jamaica Police as a case of murder."

Woolmer, 58 and a former England Test player, was attended by medical personnel at the hotel, and he also accompanied him to the University Hospital of the West Indies, where he was later pronounced dead.

Woolmer's death came less than 24 hours after Pakistan lost their second match of the World Cup March 17 at Sabina Park to Ireland by three wickets. Pakistan had earlier lost to the West Indies.

At a news conference, Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Shields indicated that the murder could have been committed by one or more people.

"Because Bob was a large man, it would have taken some significant force to subdue him and cause strangulation. Of course, we do not know at this stage how many people were in the room... And there was no evidence of a struggle," he said.

"I would, of course, like the killer or killers to turn themselves in, and I hope that this happens. I hope we can appeal to the people responsible to come forward so we can resolve this for the family.

"But this is a very busy hotel which at the time of Bob's murder was fully occupied. There were many members of staff, guests, officials and visitors in the hotel, but I am absolutely positive that there is somebody who has vital information they should give to us."

Shields added that there was no evidence to suggest there was forced entry into Woolmer's room, and nothing appeared to have been removed.

"It was a chambermaid who found the body on Sunday morning," he said. "But a full forensic examination of the body and the room has been conducted.

"The room was undisturbed and, as far as we can tell, his possessions were intact when the body was found.

"We have seized all of the hotel's records in relation to closed-circuit television and electronic records in order to assist us with the investigation."

Shields also said that a decision on whether Woolmer's body will be released for repatriation to his home in Cape Town, South Africa, will be left to the coroner.

"I think we should be able to allow the body to be released, but ultimately it is a decision for the coroner with whom I have a meeting on Friday morning," he said.

Shields indicated it was satisfactory to allow the Pakistan side to leave the Caribbean, since they had no evidence on which to hold them.

The team left the hotel on Thursday afternoon and flew to the Jamaica northcoast resort town of Montego Bay, where they will spend a couple of days before flying home via London.

"When they return to Pakistan, they have given a commitment to cooperate in any possible way that they can," he said. "Even if they left Jamaica, they would be in contact."

The police interviewed members of the Pakistan squad prior to their departure from Kingston. It was also reported they have been fingerprinted.

The police described the questioning as routine. All members of the team were being interviewed individually.

Malcolm Speed, chief executive of the International Cricket Council, put to rest any thoughts of the World Cup being halted.

"This will not be the case, and we are pleased that the Pakistan team played their final match against Zimbabwe, and did so in a very fine way," he said.

"The matches will continue, as they have since Sunday... This is an opportunity and a challenge for the game to be resolute and have a strong finish to the World Cup in good spirit as a tribute to the memory of Bob Woolmer."

Assistant Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington, chairman of Jamaica's security committee for the World Cup, said security at official hotels would be beefed up.

"Security is being continuously assessed and reviewed through a thorough process supported by the intelligence community," he said in a statement.

"We maintain appropriate levels of security around teams, officials, media, and sponsors. "Since the death of Woolmer, we have increased uniformed security presence at the hotel with focus mainly on control."

World Cup matches continue on Friday with hosts West Indies set to face Ireland at Sabina Park in Jamaica, and India down to meet South Asian rivals Sri Lanka at Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad.

Woolmer's widow Gill, in a statement, said she did not rule out murder.

Speculation is rife — though there is no evidence to that yet — that the betting syndicates could be behind the killing as Woolmer knew a lot about their activities.

A manuscript of his unfinished autobiography that he was working on was found in his room.

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