Hunt begins for missing Pak fans in Woolmer case

Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2007, 18:16 [IST]
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London/Kingston, Mar 27: Investigators are on the hunt for three Pakistani fans who went missing from the Jamaica Pegasus shortly after Bob Woolmer was murdered in the hotel last Sunday.

Jamaica's deputy commissioner of police Mark Shields said foreigners were the prime focus of invesigation because a local would have preferred weapons rather than strangling the victim.

Pakistan coach Woolmer, 58, was found unconscious in his room on the 12th floor of the hotel on March 18, a day after his team sensationally lost to Ireland in a must-win Group D league match.

Woolmer was declared dead in the hospital.

''It seems highly unlikely a Jamaican has walked off the street, gone up to the 12th floor in a secure lift, to his room, got in without any sign of forced entry, murdered him and then not stolen anything at all,'' Mr Shields said.

''The fact that it was manual strangulation, asphyxiation, doesn't really fit the profile of somebody locally,'' he told Sky News.

The latest twist to the story came amid rumours in Jamaica that closed-circuit television footage clearly shows two suspects entering the hotel corridor on Woolmer's floor in the early hours of the ill-fated Sunday morning.

However, Mr Shields said the three men were not suspects in the murder and police wanted to trace them to eliminate them from their inquiry.

According to The Guardian, Woolmer and his team mixed freely with fans, including the small community of Pakistanis living in Jamaica.

Some would provide the practising Muslims on the team with halal meat, which is hard to find in Jamaica.

Meanwhile, Mr Shields dismissed claims that the investigators had taken so long to analyse the film because of its poor quality.

He said it was because it had taken a long time to find state-of-the-art equipment to transfer video to digital images.

Jamaica police had begun to examine CCTV footage of the lift and service areas of the 12th floor of the hotel where Woolmer was staying in Room No 374.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan government urged the international media to show sensitivity towards its ''traumatised'' team and excercise restraint.

''There are lots of speculations and rumours, some of them very malicious, and we expect the media, the international media particularly, to show some sensitivity,'' said Tasnim Aslam.

In London, team manager Pervez Mir denied rumours of a rift between the coach and players and insisted that Woolmer had a fantastic relationship the team members.

He said he would release private footage of the team with its coach to dispel rumours of friction.

''There is disagreement in every team. But to highlight that and make it a media trial is not a fair thing to do. He was more than a coach. He used to help the boys,'' he said at Heathrow yesterday.

He was also particularly displeased with the possible match-fixing angle given to the murder. The 1992 champions, Paksitan were knocked out the World Cup after successive losses to hosts West Indies and Ireland.

''When a man has been murdered, to divert a murder inquiry into a match-fixing inquiry, that's not fair, because we have to find the killers, then we will know what happened,'' Mr Mir said.

Meanwhile, two Jamaican investigators had been attached to ICC Anti-Corruption Unit which is probing the match-fixing angle in the Woolmer murder case.

However, both the inquiry team and the International Cricket Council were eager to emphasise that it did not mean the killing was linked to the underworld gambling that is prevalent in the game, especially on the Subcontinent.


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