Broken neck claim adds to theory coach was murdered

THE mystery surrounding the death of Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan cricket coach, deepened last night following claims that he was discovered with a fractured bone in his neck, prompting more speculation that he had been murdered.

A senior Jamaican policeman involved in the case said in a newspaper interview that Mr Woolmer, 58, had a broken neck, consistent with being strangled.

A maid found the former England cricketer lying unconscious in his bathroom at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica, on Sunday morning, the day after his side suffered a shock defeat by Ireland in the Cricket World Cup. He was pronounced dead in hospital later that day.

The police source was quoted as saying: "We're having to be very careful to avoid looking silly, but we will soon announce that there is to be a murder investigation and there will be an appeal for witnesses."

Last night, Professor Anthony Busuttil, the Edinburgh-based forensic pathologist, said:

"If Mr Woolmer had a broken bone in his neck it is a very, very strong indication that something external like a ligature was applied very tightly or he was throttled.

"This bone would be the hyoid bone or the 'wishbone' located just above the thyroid gland. If that was damaged prior to death and not at the post-mortem, then that is a strong indication that something had gone on.

"This would not happen just by falling down. You would have to fall on something like the edge of a table or a pavement for this to happen by falling."

The Pakistan team gave statements to police yesterday morning but their spokesman said they were not interviewed under caution and were not being prevented from leaving the island.

Last night, Karl Angel, a spokesman for the Jamaican police, denied that a murder investigation was under way and dismissed a report in the local Gleaner newspaper which said police were treating Mr Woolmer's death as homicide after discovering neck injuries.

The paper, quoting an un-named high-ranking police officer, said: "A bone in the neck, near the glands, was broken, and this suggests that somebody might have put some pressure on it. We are now treating this as a homicide."

A second post-mortem examination has been ordered after the first was inconclusive. The results of further toxicology and histology tests are still to be released.

Earlier yesterday, Mr Woolmer's widow, Gill, said she had not ruled out the possibility he was murdered but rejected the possibility of suicide.

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