No Foul Play in Cricket Coach's Death

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Prakash Singh / AFP / Getty

Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer gestures during a training session in 2006.

The curious case of the dead Pakistan cricket coach just got less curious — or did it? When Bob Woolmer was found dead in his Jamaica hotel room last March, hours after his team were dumped out of the World Cup by complete outsiders Ireland, the cricket world mourned a well-loved figure in the game. But when, a few days later, Jamaican police announced they were treating Woolmer's death as murder, the sadness turned to shock. Cricket analysts and crime experts speculated that Woolmer, 58, might have been killed to prevent him spilling the beans on illegal match fixing. Or perhaps, he had simply been killed in a fit of rage by a rival, or even a player.

Now, however, Jamaican police say Woolmer wasn't murdered, after all. In a press conference on Tuesday, Police Commissioner Lucius Thomas announced that Jamaican police had found that Woolmer had died of heart failure rather than "manual strangulation" as the original autopsy had suggested. After returning with his team from the Ireland game, Woolmer retired to his room between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., ordered room service, and later wrote at least two emails: One to his wife Gill, at their home in Cape Town, South Africa, describing his disappointment over Pakistan's loss; another to the Pakistan Cricket Board, telling them he was ready to announce his retirement. A maid found him at 10:45 the next morning, lying naked on his back on the bathroom floor.

Police say Woolmer likely suffered a heart attack, perhaps brought on by the diabetes he struggled with. The new finding was based in part on reports from three independent pathologists from Britain, South Africa and Canada — all of which contradicted the findings of the local Jamaican pathologist — and a toxicology report.

News of the latest twist had been leaked to newspapers days ago. But official confirmation would seem to bring an end to the incredible tale. The Pakistan Cricket Board said it was relieved by the finding, expressed a desire to move on, and indicated that there were unlikely to be any legal actions. Gill Woolmer released a short statement in which she and her sons expressed relief "that Bob died of natural causes. We realize that this investigation has been problematical given the circumstances and the media spotlight. We hope this matter will now be closed and that our family will be left to grieve in peace."

But in such a high-profile case, that may not be possible. Just two days ago, former South African captain Clive Rice told an Indian news network that he was convinced the death of his friend was unnatural no matter what the police were about to say. "If poison was involved, how can the death be natural?" Rice told Times Now in reference to speculation that a bottle of champagne found in Woolmer's room had been poisoned. "There were statements that said he died of poison, strangulation ... how could you just cover it up like that? Bob's body also had a bruise. How could the bruise have occurred due to the Pathologist's examination? Everyone knows that you can't bruise when you are dead as the blood stops."

Suddenly, Rice went on to say, "all the players and coaches are feeling vulnerable that it could happen to anyone if such a thing can be covered up citing natural causes. That is why we need a whole lot of answers." The police say they have given all the answers there are to give. But expect the questions to continue for years.