A FORMER Somerset cricket captain arrested on suspicion of sexual assault was “totally in despair” before jumping from the window of his hotel room in South Africa, an inquest held almost 13 years after his death has heard.

Cricket journalist Peter Roebuck, 55, had been in Cape Town to commentate on a Test match between Australia and South Africa in November 2011 when he died after a fall from the sixth floor of the Southern Sun hotel, the hearing at Cheshire Coroner’s Court heard today (Friday, February 9).

The jury reached a conclusion of suicide and recorded he had “jumped from the sixth-floor window of his room”.

The coroner’s court heard the Sydney Morning Herald columnist was alleged to have sexually assaulted a 26-year-old man in his hotel room on November 7 when they arranged to meet to discuss whether the commentator could financially support the student through university.

A complaint was made to the police on November 12 and that evening officers went to Roebuck’s hotel to arrest him.

In a statement, commentator Jim Maxwell, a friend of Roebuck’s who worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, said he received a call from him at about 9.15pm asking him to go to his room.

Mr Maxwell, who was staying on the same floor of the hotel, said he went into the room after being greeted by a police officer and saw his friend sitting on the bed.

He said: “He was totally in despair.”

He said Roebuck asked him to contact people at his home and told him he needed a lawyer before police asked him to leave the room.

In a statement, arresting officer Detective Aubrey McDonald said: “Peter Roebuck mentioned he was well known in the cricket fraternity and that his arrest will be front-page news worldwide.”

Mr McDonald said he stepped outside the hotel room to make a phone call and heard his colleague Lieutenant Cecil Jacobs shouting at Roebuck.

He added: “Seconds later I heard a sound which I now know was Peter Roebuck falling to the first floor balcony.”

In a statement which the court heard was not signed or dated, Mr Jacobs said he had looked up to see Roebuck standing in the window.

He said: “I screamed at him but he jumped without looking back.

“At the time of the incident the deceased appeared very calm and in control of himself.”

Roebuck’s sister Dr Margaret Frostick said he sponsored Zimbabwean refugees, including 16 who lived at a house he owned in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

She said her brother, who also had a home in Portland Avenue, Exmouth, and one in Bondi Beach, Australia, had been “mad keen on cricket” from a young age.

She told the court that in 2001 he had pleaded guilty to a common assault charge at Taunton Crown Court “just so he could go and carry on with his job” because a trial had been listed for the end of the UK cricket season.

Roebuck was given a four-month suspended jail sentence for the offence against three South African teenagers, who he was accused of caning following a coaching session.

Dr Frostick said: “He was horrified that such false allegations could be laid against him and that he was unable to persist in getting to prove his innocence.”

The court heard post-mortem examinations carried out in South Africa and the UK both found the cause of Roebuck’s death was multiple injuries and the same cause of death was recorded at an inquest held in South Africa, which was not attended by family members.

Dr Matthew Lyall, the forensic pathologist who carried out the post-mortem examination in the UK, said in his report: “There were no findings to specifically suggest that a third party was directly involved in any of the injuries, but the involvement of a third party cannot be ruled out solely on the basis of the pathological findings.”

Concluding the inquest, senior coroner for Cheshire Jacqueline Devonish said: "I’m sorry the case has taken such a long time for us to progress, but it was in part waiting to find out about a renewed hearing in South Africa which hasn’t come to pass.”

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