Roebuck died of suicide in South Africa, jury finds

Published February 11, 2024
Peter Roebuck. — AFP
Peter Roebuck. — AFP

LONDON: Renowned cricket writer Peter Roebuck was “totally in despair” before jumping from a hotel window in South Africa after being questioned by police about an alleged sexual assault, an English inquest held almost 13 years after his death was told.

The English-born Roebuck, 55, a former captain of first-class county Somerset, had been in Cape Town to commentate on a match between Australia and South Africa in November 2011 when he died after a fall from the sixth floor of the Southern Sun hotel.

An inquest jury at Cheshire Coroner’s Court in northwest England reached a conclusion of suicide on Friday.

The coroner’s court heard Roebuck, a columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald, was alleged to have sexually assaulted a 26-year-old man in his hotel room on Nov 7 when they arranged to meet to discuss whether the commentator could financially support the student through university.

A complaint was made to the police on Nov 12 and that evening officers went to Roebuck’s hotel to arrest him.

Detective Aubrey McDonald, the arresting officer, said he stepped outside the hotel room to make a phone call and then heard his colleague, Lieutenant Cecil Jacobs, shouting at Roebuck.

He added: “Seconds later I heard a sound which I now know was Peter Roebuck falling to the first-floor balcony.”

Roebuck received a suspended prison sentence in England in 2001 for common assault after caning three South African teenage cricketers who had stayed with him in 1999.

Roebuck’s sister, Dr Margaret Frostick, told the Cheshire court he had pleaded guilty “just so he could go and carry on with his job”.

Dr Frostick said: “He was horrified that such false allegations could be laid against him and that he was unable to persist in getting to prove his innocence.”

The same cause of death was recorded at an inquest held in South Africa, which was not attended by Roebuck’s family members.

But Dr Frostick and two other relatives were at Friday’s inquest, with the senior coroner for Cheshire, Jacqueline Devonish saying: “I’m sorry the case has taken such a long time for us to progress, but it was in part waiting to find out about a renewed hearing in South Africa which hasn’t come to pass.”

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2024

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