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Police face major hurdles in Woolmer murder probe

Potential witnesses into the murder of cricket coach Bob Woolmer have either left Jamaica or not come forward. Security video shows just a sliver of the crime scene. And wild rumours seem in greater supply than facts.

Jamaican police face major hurdles in solving one of the most shocking crimes in their nation’s modern history: Pakistan cricket coach Woolmer was found dead in his Kingston hotel room after his team’s upset elimination from the cricket World Cup.

Investigators have announced no arrests or breakthroughs — raising questions of whether the investigation trail has gone cold.

”There’s no clear suspects although everyone is being considered,” Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Shields said on Tuesday.

He urged witnesses to call a hot line set up to gather leads, suggesting that police still do not have a clear picture of what happened.

”Until you get a breakthrough, you have to keep an open mind,” said Shields, a former Scotland Yard detective hired in 2005 to help Jamaica combat rising crime.

The widely admired Woolmer (58) died shortly after he was discovered unconscious in his hotel bathroom by a maid on March 18, the morning after his team lost to Ireland. The underdog Irish team went on to qualify for the second round phase, known as the Super Eights, and the championship resumed on Tuesday with Australia facing host West Indies.

The biggest challenge for police is a lack of potential witnesses, many of whom have left the island since the killing.

Pakistani players and team officials were questioned, fingerprinted and swabbed for DNA before being allowed to leave Saturday. After a two-day stopover in London, they flew home to Pakistan on Tuesday.

Shields has said holding them longer without reasonable suspicion would have set off a diplomatic uproar, and that police would travel abroad if necessary to interview and obtain DNA from everyone else who was at the upscale Jamaica Pegasus Hotel when Woolmer was killed, including members of the West Indies and Ireland teams.

”Clearly there will be people that have left the island that we want to talk to — but as witnesses,” Shields said.

Investigators are poring over the hotel’s closed-circuit security video. But those recordings show only the corridors outside the elevators and stairwell entry on each floor — not the doors to Woolmer’s room or others.

Several unsubstantiated rumours have been published only to be debunked later by police. Among them:

  • That Woolmer was killed because he was about to publish a book exposing details of match-fixing that has stained the sport in recent years. Police have said Woolmer’s book was about fitness, not match-fixing or illegal betting. But the International Cricket Council is investigating whether match-fixing was a motive in the slaying.

  • That the coach argued with players on the bus ride home after the team’s loss to Ireland and someone on the team killed him afterward. Police said team members have told them there was no argument and that the mood on the bus was sombre.

  • That a crazed Pakistan fan, distraught over the team’s early elimination from the World Cup by a squad making its tournament debut, murdered Woolmer in a fit of rage. Police say they are not ruling anything out, but they suspect that the coach likely knew his killer or killers because there was no sign of forced entry into his room.

”There’s a lot of speculation right now and it’s not very helpful,” Shields said. ”If we’re to do our jobs properly, there will be no instant results.” – Sapa-AP

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