Peter Roebuck was 'in a state of utter despair'
Police were on the point of arresting the cricket commentator and journalist Peter Roebuck on a charge of sexual assault when he apparently jumped from his Cape Town hotel window, according to a close friend who was with him just before he died.
Jim Maxwell, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s main commentator, said that he left Roebuck’s room at the Southern Sun hotel in Newlands “less than a minute” before the 55-year-old former Somerset captain apparently leapt to his death on Saturday.
“He was in a state of utter despair—apoplectic,” said Maxwell. “He was sitting in a chair near the window. It takes just five seconds to open that window. Given his emotional state he must have suffered a brain explosion and out he went.”
South African police refused to confirm whether an officer was with Roebuck when he leapt from the sixth floor of the Southern Sun hotel, near Newlands cricket ground.
Oxford-born Roebuck was staying at the hotel while covering the South Africa-Australia Test series for Australian media.
Police spokesperson Colonel Vishnu Naidoo said: “We have opened an inquest docket to determine the cause of death. We will interview everyone who can shed light on the build-up to what happened on Saturday night. There is no evidence of foul play.”
Naidoo refused to comment on reports in The New Age newspaper that a 26-year-old Zimbabwean man had gone to the nearby Claremont police station earlier on Saturday and laid charges of indecent assault against Roebuck. According to the report, the man told police he had met Roebuck when the broadcaster arrived in Cape Town on November 7 to discuss a university sponsorship, but instead was subjected to an attempted sexual assault.
Maxwell said Roebuck had called him to his room on Saturday at about 9pm. “There were two officers there. They were going to arrest him on a charge of sexual assault. He was very emotional. I asked whether he wanted me to call Fairfax, his employer. He said: ‘No, they will know soon enough’, or something like that. He wanted a lawyer.”
Maxwell, who left the Newlands hotel on Monday morning with other journalists covering the Test, said he had known Roebuck for more than 30 years. In 2001 he appeared as a character witness for Roebuck when he received a suspended sentence for assault after beating three 19-year-old cricketers across their bare buttocks. The teenagers had been invited to stay at his former home in Taunton, southwest England, for coaching in the late 1990s.
“We all have our demons,” said Maxwell yesterday. “People will make assumptions about Peter because of that sentence 10 years ago. But as far as I know nothing untoward ever happened with all the young people Peter supported.”—