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Police: Pakistan cricket coach murdered


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Police: Pakistan cricket coach murdered

KINGSTON, Jamaica - The genteel sport of cricket was dealt a brutal blow when Jamaican police said Pakistan's national coach was murdered in his hotel room a day after his team suffered a humiliating World Cup loss.

Bob Woolmer, 58, was found unconscious in his blood- and vomit-splattered hotel room in Jamaica on Sunday after his team's defeat to Ireland on St. Patrick's Day sealed Pakistan's ouster from the tournament.

He was later declared dead at a hospital. Police said at the time that initial tests didn't indicate how he died.

But Police Commissioner Lucius Thomas said Thursday in a statement that the pathologist report found Woolmer's death was due to "asphyxia as a result of manual strangulation." Police said they were reviewing security cameras at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel and urging witnesses to come forward.

"It is our belief that those associated with or having access with Mr. Woolmer may have vital information to assist this inquiry," Thomas said in the statement.

There was no evidence of forced entry, police said. No arrests have been made and there were no suspects in the case.

Mark Shields, the deputy police commissioner, said police were investigating if more than one person could have been involved.

"Because Bob was a large man, it would have taken some significant force to subdue him, but of course at this stage we do not know how many people were in the room," he told a news conference Thursday night. "It could be one or more people involved in this murder."

Woolmer's death prompted much speculation among followers of cricket, a sport that breaks for tea and makes baseball seem fast-paced. Despite its gentlemanly manner, the sport generates tremendous passion in Britain and its former colonies.

Protesters in several Indian cities, for instance, burned effigies of their national cricket players and destroyed portions of one player's half-built home after the team was beaten Sunday by Bangladesh.

"I couldn't have imagined even in my dreams that it could turn out to be a murder case," Pakistan's 1992 World Cup winning coach Intikhab Alam told The Associated Press in Pakistan. "You can't have more shocking news than this."

Shields declined to comment when asked about local media reports describing the condition of Woolmer's body. "There are some issues surrounding marks on his body, but for the moment I would rather we stick to the cause of death, which is asphyxia," he said.

Pakistan's team spokesman Pervez Jamil Mir said the players were shocked by the news Woolmer had been killed. "I've spoken to the chairman and he's totally devastated. He can't believe it. He's very, very distressed. The team is distressed. Everybody is absolutely in a state of shock," he said.

Earlier in the day, Pakistan's cricketers were fingerprinted and interviewed by police, then allowed to travel across the island to Montego Bay. Mir said Jamaican police were not preventing the team from leaving the country and they would depart for Pakistan on Saturday.

Assistant Police Commissioner Les Green said the team was fingerprinted as part of standard procedure "to eliminate persons from fingerprints which would be found in the room."

"After a thorough investigation, fingerprints not belonging to Mr. Woolmer were found in the room," he told the AP.

Nasim Ashraf, who tendered his resignation as chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board soon after the team's defeat to Ireland, said Friday that the players were not facing any restrictions on their movements and would return home soon.

"The Bob Woolmer case is under investigation, but I want to make it clear that there is no suspicion on the Pakistani team," Ashraf said in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

An outspoken Pakistani player speculated that gambling interests had it in for Woolmer. The coach's widow said he was depressed about losing the game, but would never have committed suicide. She said an irate fan might have killed her husband.

"Some of the cricketing fraternity, fans, are extremely volatile and passionate about the game and what happens in the game," Gill Woolmer said Thursday in an interview from South Africa with Britain's Sky TV. "So I suppose there is always the possibility."

Gill Woolmer said her husband had not recently mentioned anything about match fixing. He had been South Africa's coach in the 1990s when the team's captain, Hansie Cronje, admitted taking money to fix matches and was banned for life. Woolmer was never implicated.

The head of the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit will investigate if match fixing had played a role in Woolmer's death, ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said. The World Cup tournament will continue.

Woolmer's death left the Pakistan national team in tatters and tears.

Team captain Inzamam-ul-Haq announced his resignation and retirement from one-day cricket after Woolmer's death, then led Pakistan to an emotional victory Wednesday against Zimbabwe. A fan at the match hoisted a sign saying: "Do it for Bob."

The burly, bearded team captain left the field weeping after the victory he dedicated to Woolmer. "He's not in this world now and every Pakistani and every cricket lover is sad," he said.

Woolmer, who is British, was born in India, played for England and recently split his time between Pakistan and South Africa. He is being accorded hero status in Pakistan after his death. Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said he would be awarded the Sitara-e-Imtiaz, or Star of Excellence, for his contribution to sport.


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What goes on with the crickets stays with the crickets.

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