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August 8, 2001
The mystery surrounding the death of Tertius Bosch deepened on Wednesday amid claims that early indications from a post mortem on the former South African fast bowler's body show that he might have been poisoned.
Bosch, who took the new ball in South Africa's first post-isolation Test match against the West Indies in Barbados in 1992, died in February last year aged 34, apparently from Guillain-Barre syndrome, a debilitating wasting disease, after a long illness.
At the time Bosch's death was seen as a tragedy involving a popular sportsman and his young family. It now transpires, however, that even before Bosch died rumours had surfaced that there might be more to his illness that met the eye.
As a result of these rumours, Bosch's sister Rita van Wetten and her brother Toon Bosch hired a private investigator, Hennie Els, to examine the financial affairs of Bosch, a dentist, and the circumstances of his death.
According to the Durban morning newspaper The Mercury, Els uncovered various financial irregularities as well as a second will which disinherited Bosch's widow, Karen-Anne. Els's investigations led to Van Wetten requesting that Bosch's body be exhumed and a post mortem conducted. Karen-Anne agreed to the exhumation at the end of last week and the body was exhumed this week.
It is at this point that the story takes a macabre twist. The specialist forensic pathologist who conducted the post mortem, Dr Reggie Perumal, is quoted in The Mercury as saying: "The body had been embalmed and was beautifully preserved, so I got really good organs, hair and fingernail specimens.
"The clinical presentation was one which supported poisoning ... His skin was dark with white spots, he had lost his hair and there were signs of kidney dysfunction.
"I was testing for various forms of heavy metal poisoning, including amalgam lead (used in dentistry), the toxic component of which is mercury."
Dr Perumal also remarked that it was unusual for a body to be embalmed. "Why someone would want to delay the natural decaying process, I can't say ... But some people believe that the chemicals in embalming fluid remove traces of poison," The Mercury quotes him as saying.
Samples from Bosch's body have been sent for laboratory inspection and the results will be passed on to Bosch's family and to the police.
Even more bizarrely, however, a relationship between Karen-Anne and attorney Henr Selzer has come to light. Selzer was the executor of Bosch's first will and the relationship ended last week but not before Selzer was found to be suffering from symptoms similar to those that afflicted Bosch.
Again The Mercury quotes Dr Perumal: "He (Selzer) appears to have similar symptoms to those of Dr Bosch. I will be conducting tests on him to look for similar poisons in his body."
The matter is further clouded by so far unsubstantiated hints of money-laundering and other extra-marital affairs. It has left a South African cricket public, which might have been thought to be inured to further shocks after the match-fixing scandal and an assortment of rows, aghast.
Tall, strong and curly-haired, Bosch was capable of genuine pace during a first-class career with Northern Transvaal and Natal between 1986/87 and 1997/98. He played in only a single Test match, taking three wickets, and two one-day internationals.
He was far more successful at first-class level, taking 210 wickets at 27,56, but it was always felt that he lacked killer instinct. Genial and well-liked, Bosch was regarded as simply too nice a guy to consistently strike fear into batsmens' hearts.