Colleague: ‘Roebuck was facing sex charge’

AUSTRALIAN cricket commentator Jim Maxwell has confirmed his colleague Peter Roebuck was about to be detained for questioning on an alleged sexual assault when he apparently jumped to his death from his hotel room in Cape Town, South Africa.

Maxwell, who worked with writer and analyst Roebuck on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s radio cricket coverage, said police told him they were about to detain Roebuck over allegations made by a Zimbabwean man in his 20s.

In an ABC interview, Maxwell said Roebuck telephoned him in an “extremely agitated and desperate state,” telling him he needed help in finding a lawyer.

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Roebuck, 55, a long-serving Somerset opener who became captain of the English county club in the 1980s, was covering the test series between South Africa and Australia.

“I’m sure what happened was triggered by the visit of the police and the fact that they were going to charge him with an alleged sexual assault, which meant he was going to be detained and would then have to appear in court on Monday,” Maxwell said. “This is what I discovered when I went to his room after he made a very agitated, dramatic, despairing phone call to my room. He was absolutely on edge.”

Maxwell said police only allowed him to speak briefly with Roebuck, whom he believed to have died only minutes later.

“I think it’s important for people to realise that he was a remarkably brilliant person, an unbelievably good writer on the game who could write off 1,000 words at the drop of a hat,” he added.

“He was also an outstanding commentator and brought some diversity of opinion to the ABC’s coverage. And as I say, I think he was a very caring human being. He really did have strong motivation for a better world.”

Tributes have flowed in from former test players and commentators since Roebuck’s death late Saturday, with most describing him as an insightful commentator and relatively solitary figure with a passion for cricket and social justice.