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'Significant development' postpones Woolmer inquest

"New and significant developments" in the investigation into Bob Woolmer's death have delayed the Jamaican inquest that was due to start on Monday. A statement from the Jamaican justice ministry on Thursday said the hearing would be postponed following advice from the coroner.

"The coroner wishes that these new and significant developments be pursued with the utmost urgency, taking into account that the officer in charge has advised that these new developments are critical to the progress and the eventual results of the investigations themselves," the statement said. "If it becomes necessary for an inquest to be held after the new and material developments have been investigated, then another date for the holding of the inquest will be appointed."

A report in The Jamaica Gleaner, however, said that the inquest postponement was because of security concerns - the inquest is scheduled to begin a day before the World Cup semi-final, being held at Sabina Park, Kingston.

The Gleaner report said the decision was taken following a high-level meeting on Thursday afternoon attended by, among others, the Coroner Patrick Murphy. During the meeting it was determined that the combined events would stretch police resources.

Contacted by the same paper, DCP Mark Shields, heading the investigation, acknowledged as much but also spoke of other concerns. "My principal concerns were (that) to conduct an inquest at this stage may seriously hinder the progress of the criminal investigation, including the potential for the suspect or suspects to be alerted as to the progress of the investigation," Shields said. "It might also prejudice a jury trial and the investigation is still at an early stage and is extremely complicated and holding an inquest now would be premature. There is also the consideration of the semi-final happening in Kingston at the same time."

Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room on March 18, a day after Pakistan's loss to Ireland, but the local police have struggled to develop lasting leads in the murder case. Scotland Yard and Pakistan detectives and a DNA expert from Interpol have joined the investigation that has come under increasing pressure for its lack of results and the long delay in obtaining toxicology reports. The police believe Woolmer was strangled but poisoning has also been a popular theory and there have been regular reports of links to match-fixing.

Shields also said that police officers were in Grenada on Thursday collecting statements, fingerprints and DNA evidence from the Irish cricket team who had also been staying in the Jamaica Pegasus hotel where the Pakistan team was staying. On the night of Woolmer's murder the Ireland squad was celebrating on another part of the island.

"We can confirm that the Ireland squad have supplied statements, fingerprints and DNA samples as part of the ongoing police investigation into the murder of Bob Woolmer," said a statement issued by team officials on Thursday. "These were carried out today at the team hotel in Grenada. The Ireland management and players have co-operated fully with the police, and are happy to assist them in any way we can during the course of their investigation."