Police close Woolmer case after open verdict

Published: Thursday, November 29, 2007, 6:58 [IST]
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Police closed their investigation into the death of Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer on Wednesday after an 11-member inquest jury handed down an open verdict in the case.

A jury that began deliberations last week after 26 days of testimony from 57 witnesses found insufficent evidence of either murder or a death by natural causes, in effect ruling they were unable to decide an outcome.

In something akin to a five-day draw to conclude a cricket tour, the verdict lends support to the controversial strangulation finding of government pathologist Ere Sheshiah but does not force Jamaica police to continue a probe.

"We do not intend to go any further with these investigations," Jamaican deputy police commissioner Mark Shields told AFP, saying the probe has already been shelved.

Shields said the Jamaican police had already "conducted a thorough and one of the largest investigations in recent years and had always been confident that Mr. Woolmer died of natural causes."

That confidence was grounded upon the depth of the investigation already conducted by Jamaican police, who interviewed more than 400 people, collected statements from 250 witnesses and pursued 500 lines of inquiry in the matter.

Wednesday's verdict closed a case that stunned the cricket world. It began when Woolmer was found in his room at the Pegasus Hotel on March 18, one day after a humbling loss to Ireland ousted Pakistan from cricket's World Cup.

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

A post mortem conducted by Sheshiah led him to conclude that Woolmer was killed by asphyxiation 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.

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 October 16.

Shields had 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 for a slaying, in a case 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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