Jamaican Inquest fails to solve Woolmer mystery

Published: Thursday, November 29, 2007, 5:41 [IST]
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Kingston: A 11-member jury handed down an open verdict Wednesday on the death of Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer, finding insufficent evidence of either a criminal act or of a death by natural causes.

The jury, which began considering a verdict last week after five weeks of evidence presented in the case, received more instructions from coroner Patrick Murphy before regrouping and finding they were unable to decide an outcome.

English-born Woolmer was found in his room at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on March 18, one day after Pakistan crashed out of the Cricket World Cup with a humbling loss to Ireland.

Woolmer was later pronounced dead at the University of the West Indies Hospital.

A post mortem conducted by government pathologist Ere Sheshiah led him to conclude that Woolmer was killed by aphxyation due to manual strangulation.

Jamaican police decided they had a homicide case but later abandoned the investigations after consulting with other experts who determined Woolmer's death was due to natural causes.

Sheshiah and those who found no evidence of wrongdoing each made their case over the past two months before the jury rendered its verdict.

While not a conclusion that Woolmer died of natural causes, the verdict falls short of declaring his death a homicide.

That means there will not necessarily be any further investigation into the affair, although authorities could reopen the matter if they wish.

In something akin to a cricket draw in the last five-day test of a tour, the verdict came after 26 days of testimony from 57 witnesses, likely bringing a final close to a case that stunned the cricket world.

Murphy originally had told jurors about possible outcomes a week ago as they began to consider such outcomes as natural causes, accidental death, suicide, murder and involuntary or voluntary manslaughter.

Four members of the Pakistan cricket delegation at the World Cup refused to testify at the inquest.

Former Pakistan captain Inzamam ul-Haq joined medium-pacer Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, assistant manager Asad Mustafa and former media manager Pervez Mir in refusing to travel to Jamaica for the inquest, which began Oct 16.

Mark Shields, Jamaica's deputy commissioner of police, testified that he found no evidence of match fixing in the connection with Woolmer's death and neither did a probe by the International Cricket Council.

Woolmer had been in the process of writing a book that some said would reveal corruption in cricket, a potential motive in a slaying that had cricket followers pondering conspiracy theories following Woolmer's death.

"I found nothing that Mr. Woolmer was writing about, or had written about, match fixing or dirty side of cricket," Shields said.


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