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Questioned over ‘sexual assault’,Roebuck jumps to death

The renowned cricket writer had been with Australian team just hours before his death.

Written by Agencies | Cape Town | Published: November 14, 2011 1:01:17 am

GERALD IMRAY

Former Somerset captain and renowned cricket writer and broadcaster Peter Roebuck,who had a considerable following in India,committed suicide at a hotel in South Africa on Saturday soon after reportedly being questioned by police over sexual assault. He was 55.

The former opening batsman turned journalist is believed to have jumped to his death from the sixth floor of his hotel in Cape Town,where he was covering the Test series between South Africa and Australia. Police said he was found dead outside his room at his hotel near the Newlands cricket ground.

The South African police released a statement confirming Roebuck had taken his own life on Saturday night,while Australia’s cricket body said Roebuck had been with the Australian team just hours before his death.

A report by The Sydney Morning Herald,one of the newspapers Roebuck wrote for,said he had been questioned at his hotel at about 9 pm on Saturday by a uniformed police officer and a detective from the sexual crimes unit over an alleged assault.

The newspaper said Roebuck was in an agitated state and sought help from a fellow cricket journalist,asking ‘Can you come down to my room quickly? I’ve got a problem.’

The paper also suggested that one of the policemen was still in his room when Roebuck jumped to his death. It was reported that police removed personal items,including a laptop,from Roebuck’s hotel room.

Herald Sun also quoted a source as saying police questioned the cricket commentator about assault allegations.

Police would not comment on any of those details. Police spokesman Capt Frederick van Wyk told The Associated Press it was suicide but would not give further details and could not elaborate on reports that Roebuck had been questioned by police in his room minutes before he died.

“I can confirm that an incident took place at about 21:15 last night where a 55-year-old British national who worked as an Australian commentator committed suicide,” Van Wyk told the AP.

Roebuck,who captained the famous 1980s Somerset side that included Ian Botham and West Indies great Viv Richards,wrote widely for the Australian press and also worked as a radio commentator for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Born to two school teachers in Oxford on March 6,1956,and one of their six children,he studied law at Cambridge and was known as an incisive writer and analyst,but also as a complex character closely involved in the dressing room problems at Somerset that led to the exits of Richards,Joel Garner and,eventually,Botham.

He played 335 first-class matches between 1974-91 and was considered unlucky to never play for England,although he once captained an England A team.

He was named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1988,but later became more famous as a journalist and broadcaster. After ending his playing career,he moved to Australia but also spent considerable time in South Africa.

In 2001,Roebuck pleaded guilty at a court in England to three charges of common assault involving three 19-year-old South African men who had been staying with him. He was given a suspended jail sentence of four months for each charge. “Peter was a familiar face around Australian cricket who had been with the team only hours before his sudden death,” Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said. “He bought particular insight to his commentary… and combined that with a singular flair for the written and spoken word.” Cricket South Africa regretted the loss of “a good friend”.

Roebuck had demanded the sacking of former Australian Test captain Ricky Ponting after the fractious Sydney Test match against India in January 2008. He had blasted the Australian team,calling it a “pack of wild dogs” for their behaviour in that Test.

South African-born former England Test captain Tony Greig,who also made the transition from player to commentator,said on Twitter: “The death of Peter Roebuck leaves the grass less green and cricket without its most effective investigative journalist.”

AP with PTI

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