Jamaica police accepts help from Scotland Yard

by Rob Woollard

KINGSTON, Jamaica, March 31, 2007 – A team of British detectives is expected to arrive in Jamaica next week to assist in the Bob Woolmer murder investigation, two weeks after the Pakistan cricket coach was found strangled in his hotel room.

Jamaica deputy police commissioner Mark Shields confirmed to AFP on Friday that officers from Scotland Yard’s Special Crime Directorate had been sought in order to “review” the progress of the murder investigation.

It was the latest twist to a whodunit that has shocked the genteel sport of cricket and threatened to eclipse the game’s showpiece tournament, the World Cup, which is taking place across the Caribbean.

Woolmer’s naked body was discovered by a chambermaid in his 12th floor room at the Pegasus Hotel on March 18, one day after Pakistan had been humiliatingly knocked out of the World Cup by minnows Ireland.

But despite the biggest murder investigation in Jamaican history, police have failed to announce any significant breakthroughs, with Shields saying this week detectives were “nowhere near” being able to pinpoint suspects.

In an effort to retrace the progress of the investigation, British detectives are expected to arrive early next week in order to review all “major lines of inquiry” and conduct “a forensic review.”

“They will be looking to see if there is anything else we can do,” Shields was quoted as saying by Britain’s Daily Telegraph.

“You know when you’re involved in any piece of work and you are right up against it, sometimes you can miss the most blindingly obvious.”

Shields told AFP the arrival of the detectives was subject to official agreement and did not confirm the number of officers involved.

Woolmer’s murder has rocked cricket and raised the spectre of endemic corruption in the sport, with speculation raging that the killing is linked to illegal betting syndicates.

Shields said that although no lines of enquiry could be ruled out, so far detectives have failed to uncover any evidence of links to match-fixing.

Detectives have said they believe Woolmer knew his killer, because there was no sign of a forced entry to his room and none of his personal belongings were stolen.

Shields said the immediate priority was to try and track down everyone visiting or staying at the Pegasus Hotel in the 72 hours before the murder, thought to be around 1,000 people.

DNA and fingerprint samples would be sought in order to eliminate as many people as possible.

Police are also confident they will be able to glean information from security camera footage monitoring the 12th floor corridor of the Pegasus where Woolmer’s room was located.

Shields said digital enhancement completed this week enabled him to clearly identify individuals caught on camera.

Detectives were awaiting the result of toxicology and body tissue tests on Woolmer in order to establish a time of death that would allow them to scrutinise the relevant passage on the video tape, Shields said.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) meanwhile on Thursday urged Jamaican authorities to speed up the murder investigation “so that the mystery surrounding the unexplained death of Woolmer is resolved as soon as possible”.

Woolmer’s widow Gill also said she was hoping for a quick conclusion to the murder probe.

“I just hope this thing can be done so we can find out who committed this terrible act,” she said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

Shields has defended the pace of the investigation and says his team does not feel under external pressure to make an arrest.

“Everybody wants a result by tomorrow and I can understand that, but that’s not the way to conduct an investigation,” he said.

“We have to move at a pace that ensures we do not miss anything. It would be great if we could make a huge breakthrough and move this forward to a satisfactory conclusion.

“But what we will not do is be rushed to satisfy the media or anyone else.”

Unidentified PCB officials earlier this week claimed that Woolmer’s death was due to natural causes, saying the post mortem was mishandled.

Shields has said he will continue to treat the case as murder until he is presented with evidence to the contrary.

“It’s very clear from the pathologists report that we are dealing with a murder investigation,” he said. “The view is, very categorically, that this is a murder investigation. But of course we are keeping an open mind.” (© 2007 AFP)