Woolmer inquest fails to decide cause of death

A Jamaican inquest into the death of late Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer failed on Wednesday to determine his cause of death, leaving a mystery that gripped the international cricket world unresolved.

An 11-member jury said it had not seen enough evidence in the month-long inquest to decide whether Woolmer was murdered or died of natural causes in March during the Cricket World Cup, a day after his team suffered a humiliating defeat to Ireland.

The death stunned cricket aficionados, especially after Jamaican police launched a murder investigation. Suspicions immediately fell on illegal betting cartels or irate fans.

But three months later, Jamaican police abandoned the murder probe when three overseas pathologists determined the former England international had been very sick and died of natural causes.

The official inquest had been expected to deliver the definitive conclusion. Instead, the jury said it had reached an ”open verdict”.

”The evidence presented was weak,” said the foreman of the jury, who asked not to be identified.

”There were too many ifs and buts and what ifs. It just was not conclusive. We were insisting that we come to a unanimous verdict and we deliberated among ourselves and arrived at what we think was the right verdict.”

The cause of death now legally lies in the hands of Jamaica’s director of public prosecutions, Kent Pantry. He has yet to say whether he will make a determination.

Coroner Patrick Murphy, who presided over the inquiry, said that another inquest was not possible.

”You’ve done your job, thank you very much. The inquest is now over and you are excused,” Murphy told the jury.

Woolmer (58) was found unconscious in his Kingston hotel room on March 18, a day after Pakistan was defeated by cricket minnows Ireland, and was declared dead on arrival at hospital.

Blood and vomit

Chambermaid Bernice Robinson testified during the inquest that she found a bloodied bed, an overturned chair and a smell like alcohol and vomit when she stumbled on Woolmer’s unconscious body in the bathroom of his hotel room.

The inquest heard testimony from 57 witnesses and statements from another 12 who did not attend, including the police officer who led the investigation into the death, deputy police commissioner Mark Shields.

He said that in his view Woolmer was very ill and died of natural causes, an opinion was shared by pathologists from Canada, Britain and South Africa who had been called in to assist the police investigation.

Shields, a former Scotland Yard officer, said after the jury’s open verdict he was relieved the inquest was over.

”The JCF [Jamaica Constabulary Force] did a most thorough investigation. We interviewed over 400 people and collected over 200 witness statements, but ultimately it was left to the coroner to decide and now this matter is over,” Shields said.

However, the pathologist who performed the first autopsy on Woolmer, Ere Shesiah, chief consultant pathologist of the Jamaican government, told the inquest he stood by his conclusion that the Englishman was strangled, and also poisoned with a pesticide. – Reuters

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