WITCH'S POTION; EXCLUSIVE WOOLMER & THE POTTER POISON Cricket legend was killed by drug from ancient plant Cops believe it was sprinkled on his sleeping pills It would have taken 30mins for him to die in agony.
CRICKET coach Bob Woolmer was poisoned by an ancient drug used by witches in the Middle Ages, detectives believe.
Aconite, which causes death by asphyxiation, has also been used in a series of assassinations in Pakistan.
It comes in the form of a white powder which is believed to have been sprinkled over Woolmer's sleeping tablets or into his diabetes medicine.
The breakthrough comes after a man, thought to be from Pakistan, phoned police on Monday claiming that aconite killed the former Kent and England star.
The man did not give his name or give a reason for the murder.
Mark Shields, Jamaica's Deputy Commissioner, who is leading the murder inquiry, has now ordered new tests on Woolmer's body to look for traces of the drug after the anonymous caller's tip.
Toxicologists say aconite, which is referred to in the Harry Potter books as wolfsbane, is the "perfect" drug to mask a murder.
It causes the victim's internal organs to seize and slows down their breathing until they finally stop.
Death is usually by asphyxiation within 30 minutes and this explains, police believe, how 16-stone Woolmer died without putting up a fight.
It also explains why Jamaican pathologist Dr Ere Sheshaiah found no marks around his neck to suggest he had been strangled.
Woolmer, 58, was found dead in the cramped bathroom of his 12th floor hotel room on Sunday, March 18.
He had vomited violently over the floor and mirror, and had diarrhoea. A police source in Jamaica said last night:
"The aconite tip is a major breakthrough and is being taken extremely seriously.
"The man who called Kingston police station had a Pakistani accent and was very specific about aconite and how it was administered.
"The symptoms Bob suffered before he died are identical to aconite poisoning, which is why it is a major line of inquiry now. It would also explain how such a physically imposing man, at 6ft 1in tall, died without putting up a fight.
You'd struggle to get two people into his bath room let alone three, so it could be no-one was there."
Toxicologist Prof John Henry, of St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, London, said: "Woolmer would have felt nauseous after the drug began to work and would have gone to the bathroom to be sick. He wouldn't have realised straight away how serious his condition was, so it was doubtful he'd have phoned the hotel's reception.
"By the time he realised how ill he was it would be too late.
"He would have collapsed and been unable to move. The drug causes a loss of power in the limbs."
Prof Henry explained: "Aconite is a poison which stops the heart and other internal organs from working, causing the victim to die of asphyxiation. It works like cyanide.
"The poison gives the victim a sensation of ants crawling over the body.
"It makes the skin clammy and hands and feet tingly. It also causes vomiting and diarrhoea.
"The victim's breathing gets slower and slower and eventually stops. All the while the victim's mind remains clear, so it is a particularly cruel death.
"It is the perfect drug to make a murder appear to be a suicide because it leaves no mark on the body. It is difficult to detect in a post-mortem.
The examiner would have to know what they were looking for.
"It would still be in a person's system after their death but it would not show up in a post-mortem unless it was specifically looked for."
Prof Henry added that just a tiny amount of the white powder can be fatal.
Detectives have sifted through hours of CCTV footage - but have not identified anyone going in after his last meal was delivered on Saturday night and before a maid found him in just a towel at 10.45am the next day in room 374 of the Pegasus Hotel.
Woolmer is now thought to have fallen, hitting his head on an enamel bath, door or floor, cutting his nose and breaking his neck bone.
Detectives had thought he had been strangled with a bathroom towel to leave no finger marks on his neck.
A team of four Scotland Yard officers - three detectives and one scenes of crime officer - arrive in Kingston this week to help the Jamaican police.
They will begin a fresh examination of the sealed-off room. Detectives are still analysing phone and key card information from the hotel to see who was inside the building.
Jamaican police hope the chambermaid who found his body will give new clues as she recovers.
Officers are also examining new grainy black and white CCTV footage from the hotel.
Aconite has been suspected in the killings of several Pakistani public figures - including politician Omar Asghar Khan, 48, found hanging from a ceiling fan.
Other victims are thought to include Pakistan's ex-PM Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy, found dead in a Lebanese hotel in 1963, and the country's founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah's sister Fatima. Canadian actor Andre Noble, 25, died in 2004 after accidentally eating part of the plant.
The revelation fuels the suspicion Woolmer was killed as he was about to expose match-fixing.
Senator Anwar Beg of Pakistan's Senate Standing Committee on Sports told the Sunday Mirror: "Some members of the Pakistan cricket team are involved in match fixing."
But Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq denied his team rigged games. He said: "These match-fixing allegations are rumours.
"I have been captain for three years and no one said anything like this before." The Pakistan Cricket Board will today hold a public memorial service for Woolmer in Lahore's Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Another takes place in Cape Town, South Africa, on Wednesday - where Woolmer lived with his wife Gill.
Last night former Scotland Yard detective Mr Shields confirmed they were investigating the aconite claim.
"We have received information from a number of sources suggesting that Bob Woolmer was poisoned.
"We are treating these seriously but await the results of toxicology analysis."
'Perfect way to mask a murder'
Murdered... Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room in Jamaica the day after his side lost to Ireland; Deadly... the poison is extracted from the roots of the aconite plant; New tests... police chief Shields; Poisoned... politician Omar Khan
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|Publication:||Sunday Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2007|
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