Cape Town: Sometime in the early hours of Sunday morning, news filtered in from South Africa that Peter Roebuck, the former Somerset captain turned cricket commentator and writer, had been found dead at the Southern Sun Hotel Newlands.
Roebuck, 55, was in South Africa covering Australia’s ongoing Test tour, including as a radio commentator for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). It was reported that he was spoken to by local police on his return to the hotel on Saturday night around 9pm local time after he had been out to dinner.
At this time cause of death was provided, leaving much room for speculation. Cricket Australia was the first cricketing body to react to the news with shock and provide condolences to Roebuck’s family and to many followers of his cricket writing and commentary.
A little while later, the South African Police released a statement confirming that Roebuck took his own life. "This office can confirm that an incident occurred last night at about 21.15 at a hotel in Claremont where a 55-year-old British national who worked as an Australian commentator committed suicide," the statement said. "The circumstances surrounding this incident are being conducted. An inquest docket has been opened for investigation." Cape provincial police spokesman Frederick van Wyk confirmed the news to reporters as well. "He died on impact," van Wyk said.
Tributes poured in for Roebuck from fellow journalists and former and current players and administrators. A few hours later, news filtered in that Reobuck had been questioned by by Cape Town police, who were investigating certain claims. Those claims, it soon came to be known, where in regards to sexual offense.
Approximately six hours later the Sydney Morning Herald, for whom Roebuck worked, printed a story in which it was reported that Roebuck fell to his death from a hotel window after being questioned by police about an alleged sexual assault.
The paper wrote that Roebuck, who was agitated, asked a fellow cricket journalist for help. ''Can you come down to my room quickly? I've got a problem,'' he said. He asked for help to find a lawyer and for contact to be made with the students he helped to house in Pietermaritzburg, near Durban.
Minutes later Roebuck fell to his death from a window. It is believed only the uniformed officer was in the room. 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, and then took his body to the mortuary in the early hours of the morning.
It was also revealed that an Australian cricket journalist was called to identify the body of Roebuck at a Cape Town mortuary around 10pm (AEST) Saturday night. Roebuck's ABC radio colleague Jim Maxwell, one of his closest confidants, was set to tender a statement to Cape Town detectives. Alcohol is not believed to have played a role in Roebuck's death and the police have ruled out any incidence of foul play. The South African police said that the circumstances surrounding the death will not be officially released for at least a month.
In 2001 Roebuck was given a suspended sentence for common assault against three 19-year-old cricketers who he was coaching.