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Bob Woolmer: Pakistan coach's death remembered, 10 years on

 

The coach was frequently questioned by his captain, Inzamam, over his atheism. They had many anguished discussions about belief.

Woolmer - rated as one of the best and most innovative cricket coaches in the world - had been found unconscious in his room at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica, in March 2007

 

When Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer was found unconscious in his hotel room in Jamaica 10 years ago this week, the cricket world was shaken.

The 58-year-old was pronounced dead soon after arriving at Kingston hospital on the morning of Sunday, 18 March 2007.

Within days, the ensuing media frenzy intensified after police said he had been strangled.

The 2007 Cricket World Cup - which was being hosted in the West Indies - had suddenly been thrust into the centre of a murder investigation.

       

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What happened?

Woolmer - rated as one of the best and most innovative cricket coaches in the world - had been found unconscious in his room at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica.

Hours earlier, his team had been defeated by minnows Ireland in the biggest upset the tournament had ever seen.

It meant Ireland - a non-Test playing nation - qualified for the next stage, while 1992 winners Pakistan were out.

Before long, effigies of Woolmer and captain Inzamam-ul-Haq were being burnt on the streets of Multan - Pakistan's fifth most-populous city.

However, public anger soon turned to shock and grief when news of Woolmer's sudden death emerged.

Questions immediately began to be asked as to what had happened.

The cricket world was confused and grieving. A team had lost their coach. A family had lost their father and husband.

When police stated the initial findings of the autopsy were "inconclusive", the conspiracy theories started.

Three nights after Woolmer had died, Jamaican police announced they were treating his death as suspicious. Two nights after that, they declared it was murder.

All sorts of rumours began to circulate about match-fixing, poison, murder by an angry fan or religious zealots, and even suggestions that members of the Pakistan team could have been involved.

It was a murder investigation that ultimately unearthed nothing. Three months after Woolmer's death, police did an about-turn and stated they believed the coach died of natural causes.

In November 2007, the jury at an inquest returned an open verdict

During all this, the World Cup carried on. Players staying in the Pegasus Hotel were fingerprinted and DNA swabs taken as investigators gathered evidence. Pakistan played Zimbabwe three days after Woolmer's death.

Captain Inzamam-ul-Haq - a survivor of the victorious 1992 World Cup-winning team - had announced his one-day-international retirement on the night Woolmer died. I remember his hulking shoulders shaking as he dissolved into tears upon leaving the field for the last time

Woolmer's relationship with his team was under increasing strain from religious disputes. The coach was frequently questioned by his captain, Inzamam, over his atheism. They had many anguished discussions about belief.

Woolmer's widow Gill has no plans to take action against police: but she does believe 'mistakes were made'.

Posted on March 25, 2017

 

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