| Inzamam-ul Haq at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on Friday. (AP)
March 24: The suspicion that Bob Woolmer was killed by the betting mafia intensified today with the Pakistan coach’s own words cited to suggest he was about to blow the whistle on match-fixing.
The revelation about the email by Woolmer came hours after police sources said he was poisoned before being strangled by someone he probably knew.
Taking the cue, the International Cricket Council announced a probe into whether match-fixing was the motive behind the murder and summoned its top corruption sleuth to Jamaica.
Woolmer had sent the email to senior Pakistani journalist Osman Samiuddin, seeking his help to write a book “so that I can cover probably one of the more interesting periods of my cricket career”.
“I shall only start after the World Cup.… I believe, regardless of the money, the story is worth telling, has to be told and in the correct way. I am not a name and shame guy, just the honest facts. Let the punter make up his mind etc,” the email, sent on September 18 last year, said.
British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, which published the email this morning, didn’t name Samiuddin, saying the recipient was fearful for his safety.
But Samiuddin, Pakistan editor of cricinfo.com, told Associated Press later in the day that it was he who had received the email.
Although the mafia theory has focused mostly on a possible tell-all book Woolmer was writing, some have also suggested that the Pakistan-Ireland World Cup match may have been fixed, sparking a quarrel between the coach and someone he suspected.
The police are looking into this. A source said Woolmer had been distressed after being told by a friend about suspicious movements in Mumbai’s betting markets a month before the Ireland game.
A former player today added his bit to the speculation suggesting both Woolmer and Hansie Cronje — the South African captain banned for rigging matches — were killed to stop them from spilling the beans about the betting racket.
Former South Africa player Clive Rice said that when news of the match-fixing scandal broke seven years ago, he was coaching Nottinghamshire while Woolmer was in charge of Warwickshire.
“We were actually involved in a match in England at the time and Bob and I discussed it. He told me a lot that never came out…. I’m not just talking about other players being involved, but officials too,” Rice said.
“Bob knew a lot of what went on during the match-fixing scandal in which Cronje was nailed.”
Rice said Cronje, who died when a chartered plane crashed five years ago, too, was planning a book and that he had acquired the rights for it.
“I went to see him six months before he died. He signed over the rights to me. Like Woolmer, he knew a lot more of what was going on. His so-called accident was just a lot cleverer than the one that killed Bob.”
Police said food or alcohol delivered to Woolmer’s hotel room might have been poisoned to incapacitate the burly, 6-foot-one-inch man before he was killed but denied any arrests had been made. Officers have been scouring closed-circuit TV footage and other electronic records from the hotel.
All hotel guests, along with the 22 members of the Pakistan team, were swabbed for DNA samples yesterday.
Team manager Pervez Mir denied a claim by a local channel, TV Jamaica, that police had asked two (unnamed) players to stay back in the Caribbean country till the inquest was over. Mir insisted that all the players would leave Jamaica later today.
“There are no restrictions on our travelling,” team member Shahid Afridi told reporters. “Inzamam-ul Haq and others are fine.”
ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said the organisation’s anti-corruption unit (ACU) would investigate if match-fixing had a role in the death. “If there is a link, we want to know about it and we will deal with it.”
ACU chief investigator Jeff Rees has been told to join the probe and the head of the unit, former London Metropolitan Police boss Paul Condon, has been asked to be on stand-by to fly to Jamaica.