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MURDERED? Match fix mafia may have poisoned legend Woolmer.

Byline: By JEFF EDWARDS Chief Crime Correspondent

CRICKET hero Bob Woolmer was murdered by the match-fixing mafia, it was claimed yesterday.

Detectives are investigating what are thought to be traces of poison in the Pakistan coach's body.

They fear Woolmer, 58, could have been killed because he was about to blow the whistle on a major betting scandal.

Former Pakistan cricket ace Sarfraz Nawaz said yesterday: "Woolmer's death has some connection with the match-fixing mafia.

"I've been saying this for the past four days that Woolmer's death is not natural, but it's a murder."

The Test hero was found dead in Jamaica on Sunday, hours after his team were dumped out of the Cricket World Cup by Ireland - one of the biggest upsets in the sport's history.

A police source said: "A postmortem revealed an unknown substance in his blood.

"We're checking reports the match was rigged with a syndicate of gamblers in Asia standing to make a fortune on the result. We can't rule out that Woolmer discovered something and was about to report it and someone didn't want that to happen."

Police at first believed former Kent star Woolmer, who lived in South Africa, may have committed suicide with drink and drugs following his team's shock defeat. But Deputy Commissioner Mark Shields confirmed yesterday: "The case of death was inconclusive. We are treating the circumstances surrounding his death as suspicious."

Detectives are trying to discover whether huge bets were laid on Pakistan losing the game. Yesterday they contacted ex-Scotland Yard boss Lord Condon - who has probed cricket corruption - for advice.

But Woolmer's wife Gill does not believe he was murdered.

She said yesterday: "I don't see any conspiracy in his death. He had nothing to do with the match fixing controversy. He did mention he was really depressed after the match."

And ex-Pakistan captain Imran Khan added: "I think he died of natural causes. What motive could there be for killing Bob Woolmer?"

j.edwards@mirror.co.uk

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TRIBUTE: Fan pays respect yesterday; FEARS: Bob Woolmer
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 22, 2007
Words:340
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