The ICC World Cup has been rocked today by Deputy Commissioner Mark Shields of the Jamaican police, who confirmed that Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer was murdered.

The announcement was made after the results of the post mortem examination of Woolmer’s body confirmed the cause of death was asphyxiation from manual strangulation. Shields revealed that there were no signs of a struggle, and that Woolmer’s possessions remained intact when the body was found.

He also conceded that due to Woolmer’s size, the police were not ruling out that more than one person was involved in the attack, and that the body and hotel room had been subject to a full forensic examination. All electronic records from the hotel, including closed circuit television, have been seized by the police.

ICC chief Malcolm Speed sat beside Shields during the press conference but didn’t take questions. After Woolmer’s death, one South African player told the press the tournament should be called off if Woolmer was found to have been murdered, but the ICC has made no announcement on the matter.

The announcement follows days of speculation about Woolmer’s death, much of it focused on why he was killed and who might have organised it. The great bulk of speculation surrounds illegal betting on cricket and allegations of match fixing, dating back to Woolmer’s time as coach of South Africa.

The Australian wrote yesterday:

Investigators have also begun to trawl through security tapes from the Pegasus Hotel in Jamaica where the team is staying, with claims last night Woolmer was about to reveal the shady world of match-fixing in a new book called Discovering Cricket. Former Pakistan fast bowler Sarfraz Nawaz suggested that Woolmer may have been murdered by a betting syndicate.

Nawaz posed questions of his own:

“Has Woolmer carried with him to the grave dark secrets that could have brought ruin upon Pakistan’s players?” Sarfraz was quoted as saying. “Did he pay for being the unwitting receptacle of information that was never to be shared?”

Woolmer was well placed to comment on illegal betting. He was the South African coach when Hansie Cronje was banned for life for match fixing. Just a year earlier three other South African players were banned for the same crime, though in both cases Woolmer was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Cronje was later killed in a suspicious plane accident, prompting speculation that the bookies had forever silenced their man. The South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) concluded that human error and adverse weather conditions caused the accident, but that hasn’t silenced the conspiracy theorists.

Today’s announcement leaves the future of the ICC’s showpiece tournament in the balance. It also raises questions about what lurks in the dark corners of the sport, and what sort of inconvenient truths the investigation into Woolmer’s violent death will uncover.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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