Fear of detention triggered suicide, says Roebuck's colleague
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.