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Pak team may be asked to return
Diplomatic pressure had eased squad’s departure

Kingston, March 26
Pakistani cricketers may be asked to return here in connection with the murder of coach Bob Woolmer, according to the police, which has taken note of the “extremely good” odds on Ireland’s sensational win over Pakistan.

The Pakistani team was allowed to leave Jamaica yesterday for home to avoid a “diplomatic crisis” and “extremely adverse” effect on the ongoing World Cup, according to deputy commissioner of police Mark Shields.

It would have created an uproar “if I had started holding people against their will,” Shields was quoted as saying by The Times, London.

Shields, however, said he was negotiating with Pakistani diplomats Zahid Hafeez Chaudhuri and Said Ahmad, who arrived in Jamaica from the USA, to make provision for the cricketers’ return if they needed to be questioned again.

Shields has raised suspicions over generous odds of 8-1 being touted for an Irish win in the hours before the match against Pakistan on March 17.

He said match-fixing was one line of inquiry and he had been in touch with Jeff Rees, the chief investigator of the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption and security unit.

The police also said it needed more time to analyse security video at the hotel where Woolmer was killed because of the cameras’ limited scope of vision.

Shields said he was “powerless” and had to let the Pakistani cricketers go as he did not have sufficient evident to charge anyone with Woolmer’s murder.

Though there is no extradition treaty between Jamaica and Pakistan, Shields referred to a 1996 case where Zeeshan Pervez was sent back from Pakistan to face a rape trial in Kingston. Both Pakistani diplomats were shown the crime scene room 374 by Shields to convey the message that the investigation was “open and transparent”.

The probe, meanwhile, spread its wings as the sleuths will also take DNA samples and fingerprints from West Indies captain Brian Lara, whose room was bang opposite to Woolmer’s on the 12th floor of the Pegasus Hotel.

The police is also carefully studying the “critically important” closed-circuit television tapes on the 12th floor.

“I am very optimistic. If the quality is as good as I hope it is they will help us significantly in our investigation of who went on to the 12th floor that Sunday, or Saturday night,” Shields said.

Records of every door keycard in the hotel were also being studied to monitor movements in and out of rooms.

The police is also investigating whether Woolmer’s murder followed an altercation with his players over Pakistan’s loss to Ireland.

The 58-year-old Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room on March 18, hour after Pakistan’s shocking defeat at the hands of Ireland.

The police is also looking at the match-fixing angle with odds on Ireland beating Pakistan being probed.

“One aspect is what were the odds on Ireland if they won.

I understand they were extremely good if you bet on Ireland. The match-fixing angle is being looked into,” Shields said.

The former Scotland Yard chief also confirmed that the International Cricket Council’s

anti-corruption and security unit chief investigator Jeff Rees would look into the video tapes of the Pakistan-Ireland match.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s senior batsman Mohammad Yousuf made a quite return to Karachi, while the rest or the World Cup Squad was scheduled to reach there on Wednesday from London.

Vice-captain Younis Khan has reached Dubai and is still there on a private visit.

“Some players, including Azhar Mahmood, Rao Iftikhar, Shahid Afridi and Danish Kaneria, might stay back for a while in London,” a Pakistan Cricket Board official said.

Pakistani leg-spinner Danish Kaneria said Woolmer was feeling “very depressed and down” after the defeat against Ireland.

“The last time I saw Bob was when we were on the bus after the game. My last conversation with him was during the Ireland game as I was the 12th man.

He was feeling very depressed and down,” he said. — PTI

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