Media mourns Roebuck's death

2011-11-14 16:36

Johannesburg - Australia's Fairfax Media on Monday expressed sadness at the death of British-born cricket journalist Peter Roebuck.

"Peter was not only an extremely gifted cricket writer for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, he was also one of Australia's most popular cricket commentators for the ABC," Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood said in a statement.

"In his youth, he played for the English county Somerset, then made his home in Australia. In recent years, he built a reputation as one of the best columnists on the sport."

Hywood extended his condolences to the Roebuck family.

The 55-year-old was in South Africa covering the Test series between the Proteas and Australia.

Police said he jumped from a sixth floor hotel window in Cape Town on Saturday.

Peter Fray, publisher of the Sydney Morning Herald, said: "We are saddened and shocked at this news. Peter was one of the finest cricket writers of his generation. His reporting and commentary were always fair, balanced, and insightful."

Meanwhile, The Witness reported on Monday that Roebuck’s death appeared to be a spur-of-a-moment “panic decision” caused by police inquiries into an alleged sexual assault.

This is the view of his friend, veteran Australian Broadcasting Corporation commentator Jim Maxwell, one of the last men to see Roebuck alive on Saturday.

A distraught Maxwell told The Witness last night that Roebuck was “in despair” moments before his apparent suicide.

An agitated Roebuck called him asking him to come to his room quickly as he had a problem.

Maxwell said Roebuck asked him to contact an attorney and the young men he lived with in Scottsville, whom he referred to as his children.

“If I could have stayed in the room with him, I would have. I was reluctant to leave him.”

He left Roebuck with two police officers who were in his hotel room to question the 55-year-old “about an incident which led them to an inquiry involving Roebuck”.

Moments later Roebuck fell to his death from the hotel room window.

Maxwell would not elaborate on the nature of the inquiry, saying the truth would come out in time.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Monday that a Cape Town detective and a uniformed police officer from the sexual crimes unit began speaking with Roebuck at about 21:00.

It is believed that only the uniformed officer was in the room when Roebuck jumped.

The Herald reported that paramedics rushed to the hotel but Roebuck was pronounced dead.

Police established a crime scene and took personal items from the room, including a laptop.

Maxwell, who is expected to give police a statement on Monday, said: “One moment I was with him and the next, he met his fate. I realised something had happened.

“I had no way of contacting the guys [the young men]. Peter had not given me a phone number.

“I had known him for a long time. This is very traumatic.

“I hope his friends in Pietermaritzburg can cope with this because those of us left here are struggling.”