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'May take months to find Bob's killer'

The complicated murder case has over 100 potential witnesses, says cop incharge.

cricket Updated: Apr 06, 2007 16:14 IST

The trail of Bob Woolmer's killer has not gone cold but it could take months to piece together a very complicated murder case with hundreds of potential witnesses, the policeman in charge said on Tuesday.

The strangling of the famous Pakistan cricket coach could have been committed by an angry fan, a disgruntled player or someone with a personal grudge, or it could be related to gambling or match-fixing, said Jamaica deputy police commissioner Mark Shields.
Nothing has been ruled out.

"I'm not concerned about the passage of time here. Every crime investigation is unique and different and the uniqueness of this is that because it was conducted in a hotel room, there are records we have that we would not have benefit of if it was in somebody's house or indeed in the street," Shields said in an interview with Reuters.

Nine days after the murder that rocked the sporting world, the former London Scotland Yard detective who is the number two official in the Jamaica police force said investigators have lots of evidence, including hotel surveillance video, hotel key card records and hundreds of potential witnesses.

"There are numerous avenues of inquiry that are open to us," he said.

Unlikely Move
They also have Woolmer's laptop, cellphone, credit cards, keys and passport, all left in the room by the killer -- evidence that makes theft by a stranger an unlikely motive.

Woolmer was found by a chambermaid unconscious in his 12th-floor room at Kingston's Pegasus Hotel on Sunday, March 18, shortly after favoured Pakistan were ousted from the Cricket World Cup by expected pushovers Ireland.

Shields said in the interview that the police still did not know for sure if he were killed on the Saturday or Sunday. "When he was found by the chambermaid she was joined by a doctor and a nurse who attempted to resuscitate him although I understand there were no visible signs of life."

Does that mean he is confident he was dead at the hotel?

"As confident as I can be as an amateur. I'm not a doctor. "There were no visible signs of life. I'm not a doctor so I can't say but a doctor did try to revive him. When he got to the hospital he was pronounced dead."

Were there signs of a fight in the hotel room or any sort of a struggle? Broken lamps, perhaps?

"No. Nothing like that. If there were signs of a violent struggle it probably would have made my job easier because it was not clear at the time within that first 24 hours what had determined his death."

Knew Killer
Is it unusual to have a manual strangulation with no marks on the neck as police say was the case with Woolmer? "It is unusual but there are circumstances surrounding this one which renders it not that unusual." Shields refused to elaborate on that point. Investigators believe he probably knew his killer. There were no signs the door was forced open and Shields said entry by the balcony would have been nearly impossible.

Police are examining a surveillance video of the 12th floor, particularly the period between when Woolmer went to his room at about 1930 (0030 GMT) Saturday night until his body was found before 1100 the next morning. Just viewing the video, tracing key card records, examining a host of fingerprints and tracking down each one of the hotel guests and patrons, many of them foreigners, who might have evidence to assemble a picture of the crime is a huge task, Shields said.
"It could take months. I think it could take months," Shields said in the interview in his tiny office in a nondescript bank building in Kingston, the Jamaican capital.

"But my hope is that there will, before we have to go through that whole process, be some form of breakthrough whereby it will shorten that process."
Shields discounted the latest press reports indicating that Woolmer was involved in a row with a potential suspect shortly before he was killed. This report said an Indian bookmaker was thrown out of Woolmer's room.

He also played down complaints that the Pakistani delegation to the World Cup had not been kept informed on the investigation, saying they had been made aware of every development. Shields, 49, who started in police work with the City of London police in 1976, said he felt no pressure from governments or the media to solve one of the highest-profile murders cases in the world.

"I'm here to do a job. I'm not here to be put under pressure. I'm here to do a professional job with my colleagues in order that we can find the people who murdered Bob Woolmer, for his family and for everybody else."

First Published: Apr 06, 2007 16:14 IST