Sydney/Cape Town : Noted cricket columnist and former Somerset captain Peter Roebuck was in a state of “utter despair” before he committed suicide at the Southern Sun Newlands hotel in Cape Town on Saturday, a fellow commentator says.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Roebuck was facing possible arrest on charges of sexual assault.
Jim Maxwell, an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) commentator and the last person to see Roebuck alive, said that he found Roebuck in a state of “despair”. Roebuck also asked him to arrange for a lawyer and contact the students who lived at his house in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
“Peter was in a state of utter despair. He was sitting in a chair, near the window, and I can tell you it takes five seconds to open that window. Given his state of mind, he just had a brain snap. That is all I can assume,” Maxwell was quoted as saying by the Sydney Morning Herald.
Roebuck returned from dinner Saturday evening in Cape Town to be met in the lobby of the Southern Sun Hotel by two officers from the city’s Family Violence and Sex Crimes Unit who told him they were investigating an allegation of sexual assault made by a 26-year-old Zimbabwean man.
They accompanied him to his room where he fell from his window 25 minutes later. Reports stated that Roebuck had asked to go to the bathroom to change his clothes but jumped out of the window despite a uniformed officer being just a few feet away.
The daily said that Police reportedly told Roebuck his accuser had alleged the sexual assault took place at the Southern Sun Newlands hotel six days earlier, two days before the first Test between South Africa and Australia. The unnamed 26 year-old had made contact with Roebuck through Facebook and asked him to sponsor his education.
Roebuck’s philanthropic work included funding the education of young Zimbabweans and South Africans who lived at his home in Pietermaritzburg.
Roebuck died instantly when he fell from his hotel room window on to an awning covering the first floor of the hotel, which is close to the Newlands cricket ground where he had covered the eventful first Test.
Roebuck’s students at his house in South Africa remembered him yesterday by describing him as a “mentor” and “father figure”.
“If it wasn’t for him, I really would not be where I am today,” he said. “He paid from his own pocket to provide everything for me. I am so grateful for what he did for me, it’s changed my life,” Mathias Chirombo, a former student, was quoted as saying by London’s The Daily Telegraph.
Roebuck was given a four-month suspended jail sentence at Taunton Crown Court for caning three 19-year-old men at his home in Devon after they failed to meet his standards in cricket training.