The original inquest into the death of cricket writer Peter Roebuck had taken place without any representative of him or his family present © Getty Images
South Africa’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Western Province, has begun reviewing the findings of the original closed inquest into the death of Peter Roebuck, raising the prospects of the incident being re-examined. The original inquest had taken place without any representatives of the former Somerset captain, writer and broadcaster or his family.
The DPP is part of South Africa’s National Prosecution Authority, a body with the power to institute criminal proceedings on behalf of the State.
The original inquest “docket” had been requested for review by the DPP advocate Julius Mornay more than 18 months ago, and, in the intervening months, was said by the police force concerned to have been lost. ESPNcricinfo has learned it was finally located earlier in December, and will now be reviewed in order to establish grounds for a re-opening of the inquest.
Roebuck fell to his death from his hotel room window in Cape Town in November 2011, while he was in the country to cover Australia’s Test series against South Africa. A police statement at the time said Roebuck’s death was a suicide. But his family and its legal representatives have persisted in their search for more clarity surrounding his death.
On the night of his death, Roebuck had been confronted by South African police from Claremont station with allegations of sexual assault, a decade after he had accepted charges of common assault (the prosecution abandoned the original charges of indecent assault) in a British court for caning three 18-year-old South African cricketers who had been boarding with him in England.
A closed inquest was reported to have been completed in February 2013, but no member of Roebuck’s family was alerted to the inquest and it therefore went ahead without any representation on their part. Court documents seen by the family showed that police had sought to inform “Peter Lalor; ID no L4166823: British Embassy”, but Lalor, the Australian journalist who formally identified Roebuck’s body after his death, apparently did not receive any notification of the inquest either.
Since then, the Roebuck family has persisted in trying to have the inquest revisited, stating numerous other concerns about the way it was conducted and the conclusions reached. In June 2015, the DPP commenced a review process by appointing an advocate, Mornay, who after considering the available evidence elected to review the docket of the original inquest – effectively to decide whether the inquest should be re-opened.
For most of the 18 months since, Mornay was told that the docket could not be found, stalling the process. However persistent inquiries led ultimately to its location earlier this month, adding greatly to the possibility of a re-opened inquest later in 2017.
Areas likely to be probed in any new inquest would include wider use of forensic evidence, including fingerprints taken by police at the hotel on the night but not produced before the magistrate who conducted the original inquest and concluded that Roebuck had died from “multiple injuries” without explicitly stating how those injuries came about.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo