Pearl murder investigator to assist Jamaica police

A Pakistani policeman who led the probe into the murder of the US reporter Daniel Pearl will travel to Jamaica to help investigate the death of Bob Woolmer. The senior investigator Mir Zubair Mahmood is being accompanied by another security official and both are expected to leave on Wednesday, the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Naseem Ashraf told AFP.

"We are sending two highly qualified investigators to Jamaica including Mir Zubair, who had resolved the Daniel Pearl case," Ashraf said. "The investigators will not only assess the Jamaican police, they will find out the progress in the investigation so far. They will stay till the outcome of the final probe."

Interpol's Dr Susan Hitchen, a forensic expert in DNA, has also arrived in Kingston to assist the local police. "She flew in from the headquarters of Interpol in Lyon, France, and she will help us specifically with the analysis of DNA samples," Karl Angell, the Jamaican police spokesman, told Reuters. Dr Hitchen is also expected to review the pathologist's report.

Pearl, a reporter with the Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped in Karachi in January 2002 while researching a story on Islamic extremists. A video of his decapitation was later delivered to the US consulate. Police quickly caught the British-born Sheikh Omar and three Pakistani militants in connection with the crime. They were sentenced to death in 2002 but have appealed against the verdict.

Zubair said his new task was a major challenge as all Pakistanis wanted to know who killed Woolmer after he was found strangled at the Pegasus Hotel on March 18. "It's a big, big responsibility on our shoulders and I hope we will be able to live up to the expectations," he said.

Zubair said, however, that Woolmer's case was still being handled by the Jamaican police, under Jamaican law. "Our terms of reference are limited. We will only assess them and exchange information," he said.

Pakistani officials have privately expressed frustration at the pace of the probe into the murder of Woolmer, which came a day after Pakistan were knocked out of the World Cup. Jamaican detectives leading the inquiry said on Monday they were studying the possibility that poison was used to incapacitate Woolmer before he was strangled.

However, the fact detectives are still awaiting toxicology reports on Woolmer more than two weeks after his death has led to questions over whether Jamaica's criminal justice system is capable of handling such a complex inquiry.

Four police officers from Britain's Scotland Yard were due to arrive in Kingston on Tuesday to review the course of the investigation. Ashraf, who was himself due to leave for South Africa on Tuesday to attend the memorial service for Woolmer, reiterated that no Pakistani player or official had any role in Woolmer's death. "I can say in categorical terms that no Pakistani player or officials have anything to do with this crime," he said.