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Woolmer mafia murder claim.

Byline: By Alan Reed

Devastated Pakistani cricketers took to the field in their final World Cup match yesterday amid claims that coach Bob Woolmer had been murdered by the "match-fixing mafia".

Police revealed they are treating the former England batsman's death in Jamaica at the weekend as "suspicious" but stopped short of suggesting that he had been murdered.

Woolmer, 58, was found unconscious by staff at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston on Sunday morning, the day after Pakistan's shock defeat to cricketing minnows Ireland, and taken to hospital, where he later died.

A spokesman for the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) refused to confirm or deny unconfirmed reports that marks had been found on the 58-year-old's neck or that traces of poison had been found.

Former Pakistani fast-bowler Sarfraz Nawaz claimed that Woolmer had been murdered as part of a match-fixing plot.

"Woolmer's death has some connection with the match-fixing mafia," he said.

"I've been saying this for the last four days that Woolmer's death is not natural."

But Woolmer's wife Gill told Indian television station NDTV: "I don't see any conspiracy in his death.

"I am aware that his death is being viewed as a suspicious death.

"He had nothing to do with the match-fixing controversy and any such person being involved is highly unlikely."

Yesterday Pakistan took to the field for its scheduled Group D match against Zimbabwe, and a minute's silence was observed by both teams.

Following an announcement that tests had been "inconclusive", deputy police commissioner Mark Shields said a full investigation was being carried out.

"Having met with the pathologist, other medical personnel and investigators, there is now sufficient information to continue a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Woolmer, which we are now treating as suspicious," he said.

"We have already informed the Woolmer family of this development."

Asked if he was saying that Woolmer had been murdered, Mr Shields said: "No, we are not saying that.

"When we say suspicious, we don't rule anything out." More tributes were paid in the UK. Former Warwickshire chief executive Dennis Amiss gave his backing to the idea of a permanent memorial at Edgbaston.

During Woolmer's time as coach of Warwickshire, the county won the NatWest Trophy in 1993 and the treble of County Championship, Sunday League and Benson & Hedges Cup the following year. Mr Amiss said: "A permanent memorial to Bob Woolmer by Warwickshire would be a fitting tribute.

"He brought great honour to the club."

Earlier, Kent County Cricket Club chairman Carl Openshaw said: "Bob Woolmer was a marvellous man and I had a great regard for him, as everyone did."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 22, 2007
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