March 23, 2007 / 12:03 AM / 13 years ago

Murder claim rocks cricket showcase

KINGSTON, Jamaica (Reuters) - Jamaican police launched a murder inquiry on Thursday into the death of Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer at the World Cup, saying he was strangled.

Pakistan's coach Bob Woolmer puts his team through their paces during a training session near Port of Spain, in this March 8, 2007 file photo. Jamaican police are considering the death of Woolmer as murder, they said in a statement on Thursday. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/Files

The death on Sunday was “due to asphyxia as a result of manual strangulation”, according to a police statement read to a news conference at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston where Woolmer was found unconscious before he died on Sunday.

“Bob was a large man — it would have taken some force,” deputy commissioner Mark Shields said. “Hopefully we will bring the killers to justice as soon as possible. We will use every energy we possibly have to track down the killers.”

A day before the 58-year-old Briton died, leading contenders Pakistan were eliminated from the World Cup by debutants Ireland in a result which stunned cricket.

The sport’s governing body said the World Cup would continue despite the shock of Woolmer’s murder which has completely overshadowed the seven-week tournament being played in the Caribbean for the first time.

‘BETTING MAFIA’

There was growing media speculation on Thursday that Woolmer had fallen victim to a “betting mafia”.

Asked about these suggestions, Shields said: “Everything you have heard would be a line of inquiry.” He said no stone would be unturned into discovering why Woolmer was murdered.

It was known that he was writing a book at the time of his death but its contents were unknown.

Shields said there could be one or more people involved in the actual killing but added that there was no evidence of forced entry into his hotel room.

The police have seized the hotel’s electronic security recordings as part of the investigation and are still awaiting results of toxicology and histology (science of examining body tissue) tests.

Pakistan team media manager Pervez Mir, told Reuters on Thursday that the security at the hotel was too “lax” in his opinion.

‘GREAT SADNESS’

International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Malcolm Speed said: “We face shock and outrage and great sadness for Bob’s family. There has been speculation that as a result of all this, the World Cup will be discontinued. That will not be the case.

“Perhaps it will be a measure of the game and its resolve as to how we can complete this World Cup in view of this shock.”

He said the former London Metropolitan Police commissioner Paul Condon was standing by and willing to assist with the murder inquiry. Condon has been involved with helping the ICC fight corruption within the sport.

Shields added that the Metropolitan Police, South African and Pakistan forces had been contacted over the investigation but so far the Jamaican police were working solely on the case.

The Pakistan cricket team, who flew from Kingston to Montego Bay within Jamaica earlier on Thursday, said they were shocked by the latest development.

“Tragic, yes, worrying yes, because we have a member of our team, a national coach of Pakistan who has been murdered and this is not something which can be taken lightly,” Mir told reporters.

“We are all very worried right now.”

Additional reporting by Richard Sydenham in Montego Bay

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