Family relieved that Woolmer was not murdered

By Telford Vice

DURBAN - The family of former Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer expressed relief today at the Jamaican police announcement that he had died of natural causes and not murder as initially suspected.

Woolmer, 58, was found unconscious in his hotel room in Kingston on March 18 after his team had been upset by Ireland in the cricket World Cup.

"We hope that this matter will now be closed and that our family will be left to grieve in peace," his widow Gill Woolmer said in a media statement in South Africa, where the highly respected coach was cremated in May.

She also thanked Jamaican police for treating the family well over the course of the three-month investigation.

"We realise that this investigation has been problematical to conduct given the circumstances and the media spotlight that has been focused upon it," she said.

But Pakistan cricketers had few kind words for the police.

"It has been a traumatic period for all of us because of the unnecessary delay in resolving the cause of Woolmer's death. But finally we are relieved it is all over now," Pakistan Cricket Board spokesman Ehsan Malik said.

The announcement in late March by Jamaican police that Woolmer had been strangulated triggered speculation that irate fans or an illegal gambling syndicate lay behind the murder.

"There is no doubt Pakistan cricket came under great pressure because of the speculations and suspicions surrounding this high-profile case," Malik said.

Malik declined to comment on reports the PCB was contemplating filing for damages against the Jamaican police.

In South Africa, whose national team Woolmer coached from 1994 to 1999, the reaction combined relief for his family with anger at the tortuous investigation.

"Bob left a tremendous legacy in cricket, and to have to go through all this fumbling and bumbling without knowing what happened has been tough," Gary Kirsten, a former South Africa opener, said.

South-Africa all-rounder Shaun Pollock said: "It still doesn't take away from the fact that Bob died, but at least this gives his family some closure."

Current South Africa coach Mickey Arthur said the finding that Woolmer died of natural causes would help clear the air in the broader cricket world.

"It's a selfish point of view and I know this news doesn't make his family feel any better, but cricket doesn't need more scandals," he said.

- REUTERS

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