Senior Jamaica police officer testifies at Woolmer inquest November 16, 2007

Mark Shields defends decision to close investigations

Cricinfo staff

Mark Shields continues to maintain that Bob Woolmer died of natural causes as the inquest entered its 21st day © AFP
Jamaica's deputy commissioner of police Mark Shields, appearing for the third consecutive day at an inquest into the death of former Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, has defended the Jamaica Constabulary Force's decision to close investigations into the case.

"Based on the thoroughness of the investigation, it was my view, and that of many others, that we did the right thing," Shields said, adding that the press conference on July12, to announce the closure of the case, was called for after consultation with people involved in the case.

"Having considered all the evidence here and taking into account the review of every aspect of investigations by the Metropolitan Police's Murder Review team, I formed the view that Mr. Woolmer was not manually asphyxiated."

Shields said that the others consulted were the government pathologist, Ere Sheshiah, and foreign pathologists Nathaniel Cary (Britain), Michael Pollanen (Canada), and Lorna Martin (South Africa). He also told the 11-member jury that Justice Clarence Walker, a retired High Court judge and Glen Andrade, a former director of public prosecutions were taken into confidence.

Director of public prosecutions Kent Pantry asked Shields whether all those involved in the investigations were aware of the presence of cypermethrin (a synthetic compound primarily used an insecticide) in samples taken from Woolmer's body.

Shields said that they knew of his May 10 meeting with the Metropolitan Police, after which he informed Judith Mowatt of the Government Forensic Lab that tests conducted in London showed no signs of pesticide.

The Jamaica police decided to concur with the independent analysis of Cary, Pollanen and Martin, and announced that Woolmer died of natural causes. But the views of the foreign pathologists differed from that of Sheshiah, who has maintained that Woolmer died from a combination of pesticide poisoning and asphyxia.

Shields also rejected the findings of Fitzmore Coates, a senior forensic officer at the government-run lab, who testified on November 8 that Woolmer's stomach samples contained significant amounts of a deadly pesticide. "I'm not attacking his professionalism or integrity," Shields said. "I'm just saying he made a genuine error."

Shields also felt that the facilities at the lab needed to be upgraded. "Its standard of equipment, procedure, processes and security are not anywhere near the level I'd like to see."

Pantry took a strong view of comments made by an attorney who was also a witness in the inquest. The attorney, speaking on a radio talk show, had said that cypermethrin entered Woolmer's body after it was sprayed on him at a Kingston morgue. Pantry asked coroner Patrick Murphy to speak to the attorney, with a view that the comments could influence jurors.

The inquest continues on Friday, November 16.