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Investigation closed: Woolmer died of natural causes

6/13/2007 - Cricket

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Pakistan's World Cup cricket coach died
from natural causes and was not strangled as officials concluded
earlier, the Jamaican police commissioner said Tuesday in
announcing the closing of a homicide investigation.

Authorities reached their conclusion about the death of Bob
Woolmer after obtaining opinions from three independent
pathologists from Britain, South Africa and Canada and reviewing a
toxicology report, Commissioner Lucius Thomas told a news
conference.


Wednesday, police in Jamaica said they were almost certain that Woolmer died of heart failure.

"Determining the cause of death is the remit of the coroner
but we are 99 percent sure that Woolmer died of heart failure,"
said police spokesman Karl Angell.

As a result of the new results, opposition lawmaker Derrick Smith called for Jamaican pathologist Dr. Ere Seshaiah to be fired.


"He led the investigation team down a wrong path," Smith said
outside parliament. "Now that we have found out that he has made
an error, he should be terminated."


Seshaiah reportedly said he still believes Woolmer was strangled
in his hotel room.


"I am sticking to my findings. He was murdered," Seshaiah told
The Jamaica Observer.


Seshaiah, who has not responded to requests for comment from the AP, told the Observer he is confident the coach was slain.


"Woolmer is not a first for me," he said. "I have been doing
autopsies here since 1995."


Security Minister Peter Phillips ordered a review of the probe
into Woolmer's death to assess "standards of professionalism"
shown by all medical and police investigators.

Woolmer, 58, was found unconscious in his hotel room in Kingston
on March 18, a day after his team was eliminated from the World Cup
in a humiliating loss to Ireland. Authorities first said a
preliminary autopsy was inconclusive, but on March 22, they said
Woolmer had been strangled, setting off one of the biggest murder
investigations in Jamaican history.

Police questioned nearly 400 people and took DNA samples and
fingerprints Pakistan team players and officials before allowing
them to depart the Caribbean island. Police also took samples from
potential witnesses and other World Cup cricket teams.

There was a flurry of speculation fed by media outlets around
the world that match-fixers or an irate fan may have murdered the
popular coach. A British TV news show said Woolmer had been
poisoned before being strangled, but Thomas also dismissed this.

"No substance was found to indicate that Bob Woolmer was
poisoned," he said.

Thomas said Tuesday a British pathologist reviewed the Jamaican
coroner's report saying Woolmer had been strangled and came to the
opposite conclusion, finding that he died from unspecified natural
causes. The initial autopsy said a bone had been broken in the
coach's neck, but Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Shields said the
other pathologists determined that was false.

"The Jamaican Constabulary Force accepts these findings and has
now closed its investigation into the death of Mr. Bob Woolmer,"
Thomas said.

The coach's widow, Gill Woolmer, welcomed the announcement and
thanked Jamaican police.

"My sons and I are relieved to be officially informed that Bob
died of natural causes and that no foul play is suspected in his
death," she said in a statement from their home in Cape Town,
South Africa. "We hope that this matter will now be closed and
that our family will be left to grieve in peace."

The Pakistan Cricket Board expressed "great satisfaction" with
the resolution of the case, saying it would come as a relief to
Woolmer's family, his team "and the people of Pakistan, who all
have been feeling greatly distressed by the rumors that have been
clouding the cricket world since this sad incident."

But former player Intikhab Alam accused Jamaican police of
"mishandling" the case.

"They should not only apologize to the Pakistan Cricket Board
but to the whole nation," Alam told The Associated Press. "They
took DNA tests of our players, fingerprinted them and whatnot. Now
they should apologize."

Imran Khan, a former captain and now a leading Pakistani
politician, said he was "shocked" that Jamaican police had issued
no apology.

The Pakistani players had suffered "insinuations that they had
thrown the match and because the coach was going to blow the
whistle, they had strangled him," Khan said on CNN.

"For one month they went through a living hell. The Pakistan
team came back and literally hid from the public. The players went
into depression. ... I'm afraid someone has to be answerable and
someone has to be responsible for this," Khan said.

The cricket board "must ask for damages and certainly a big
apology," he said.

A final report on the cause of death will be issued later by
Jamaican Coroner Patrick Murphy.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.