SYDNEY, Australia, November 14 – Renowned cricket writer Peter Roebuck plunged to his death from a hotel window in South Africa after being questioned by police about an alleged sexual assault, his employer said on Monday.
The English-born Roebuck, 55 and a former first-class cricketer, was covering the ongoing Test series between South Africa and Australia when he died on Saturday night.
South African police confirmed he committed suicide and the Australian newspaper group he worked for, Fairfax Media, said he fell to his death from the Southern Sun Hotel in Cape Town.
Roebuck had written on cricket for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Melbourne since 1984, and the newspapers said his death followed questioning by police from the sexual crimes unit about an alleged sexual assault.
They provided no further details although The Australian newspaper said the allegations involved an incident last week.
Fairfax said Roebuck was agitated and asked a fellow cricket journalist for help.
“Can you come down to my room quickly? I’ve got a problem,” he said and asked for help to find a lawyer.
Minutes later Roebuck, regarded by many as the finest cricket writer of his generation, fell to his death from a window. The Australian said he landed on an awning above the hotel foyer.
Fairfax said it was believed a uniformed police officer was in the room at the time. South African police said an inquest had been opened but would not comment further.
Roebuck studied law at Cambridge and played 335 first-class matches before becoming an Australian citizen and making a career writing about the sport, quickly establishing an avid following with his forthright, intelligent prose.
He also regularly commentated for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Never far from controversy, he received a suspended prison sentence in England in 2001 for common assault after caning three South African teenage cricketers who had stayed with him in 1999.
Former Australia captain Steve Waugh, who played alongside Roebuck at Somerset, led tributes to him.
“He was never afraid to tackle the big issues in world cricket and would often be a lone voice if he believed strongly in the cause,” Waugh told Fairfax media.
“As a captain I would always be keen to read Peter’s take on the previous day’s play.”
Mark Taylor, whom Waugh succeeded as captain of Australia in 1999, said Roebuck’s opinion was greatly respected as it was based on so much experience.
“Not every player, me included, agreed with what he said all the time. We did know it wasn’t based on a whim, it was based on a lot of experience,” he said.
Another former Australian captain, Greg Chappell, highlighted Roebuck’s philanthropic work with the charity The LBW Trust – Learning for a Better World.
“Something like 250 kids in cricket-playing countries around the world, underprivileged kids, are being educated through the LBW Trust, and that was from his vision,” Chappell told the Herald.