Peter Roebuck 1956-2011 November 15, 2011

Fear of detention triggered suicide, says Roebuck's colleague

ESPNcricinfo staff

Peter Roebuck was about to be detained over an alleged sexual assault when he committed suicide at his Cape Town hotel, his colleague Jim Maxwell has said. Maxwell, a fellow commentator with the ABC radio service, was the last of Roebuck's friends to see him alive on Saturday night and has given details of the scene of desperation in Roebuck's hotel room.

He told AM radio that the police later confirmed to him they were there to detain Roebuck over an alleged sexual assault on a Zimbabwean man.

Shortly before falling to his death, Roebuck telephoned Maxwell in an extremely agitated and desperate state, telling his friend he needed help in finding a lawyer.

"I'm sure what happened was triggered by the visit of the police and the fact that they were going to charge him with an alleged sexual assault, which meant he was going to be detained and would then have to appear in court on Monday," Maxwell said.

"This is what I discovered when I went to his room after he made a very agitated, dramatic, despairing phone call to my room. He was absolutely on edge.

"When I arrived the detective came out and filled me in on the details. It was then that I asked if I could speak to him [Roebuck] and the detective said 'well, just for a moment', because clearly they didn't want their case compromised in some way, I suppose, by what he [Roebuck] may have said to me.

"So I only had a few moments with him. He was desperate to get in touch with all those students that were in his care in Pietermaritzburg. He didn't have a phone number.

"He asked for a lawyer and I said I'd see what I could do after which I made a reference to John Fairfax, his main employer. He said you won't have to do that because they'll know."

Maxwell says he then left the room, along with one of the two policemen who had been sent to detain Roebuck.

"I'm trying to piece this together, but I'd say that it [Roebuck's death] probably happened fairly quickly," he said.

"If it's the case that there was only one policeman in the room, I'm inclined to the belief that, sadly, when I left the room and the detective came out with me - because I wanted to get his mobile phone number so I could ring him - it may have occurred there and then.

"Because I then moved down the corridor to speak to one of my colleagues, and I was standing in the doorway telling him what had occurred, and within a matter of a minute I could hear outside the lift the detective talking on his mobile phone to someone about how there'd been a complication. And in trying to make out what he was saying it sounded like someone had gone out the window and that person, sadly, was dead."

Maxwell said he did not discuss the sexual assault allegations with Roebuck before his death. "He didn't say anything about them. Obviously it was a matter I would love to have pursued with him, but I don't think the police wanted that talked about. They really just wanted me to be able to make some contact with other people. That's as far as it got."

Roebuck's suicide is being investigated by South African police, who have said they will make a formal statement on it only after the inquest.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Simon on November 17, 2011, 5:03 GMT

    Very sad. Peter was a much maligned man. I've never had any time for the cheap innuendo that surrounded him from time to time, and I'm sorry to see that it doesn't look like it will go away.

  • Sikandar on November 16, 2011, 10:12 GMT

    this is PENN STATE U-style story written all over! whatever were Peter's likes/disliles BUT the way he went about it was wrong!!! luring young ones in the name of Cricket Scholarships, etc!! If this is what is happening in these so-called Academies, then we are in for a bigger surprise in the world of cricket!!! sad death!

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2011, 8:43 GMT

    I highly doubt that he committed suicide.

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2011, 8:23 GMT

    The case is still in shadow till the police statement but smells fishy. From the past instances,it looks that Roebuck had complex personality and that could be the result?

  • Paul on November 16, 2011, 1:35 GMT

    ...and what does Jim Maxwell think he's doing, gossiping like this on the radio? Disgraceful, at this stage of proceedings.

  • Steve on November 16, 2011, 0:39 GMT

    My earlier comment was not posted, but I think Roebuck had something to do with the allegations or didn't have the courage to fight his way through the ordeal. Despite his great insight into cricket, he had his severe shortcomings as a person. All the same, it is still unfortunate he died in avoidable circumstances.

  • Andrew on November 15, 2011, 16:53 GMT

    It's not just the details of the inquest that are important here: the details of the sexual allegations should be forthcoming from the police as well, such as the nature of the allegations, whether the offender acted alone etc. It's important that these matters are clarified as is confirmation of whether there were other people that the police had questioned or were due to question.

  • No featured comments at the moment.