Not murder, says Oxford don’s widow; Indian-origin academic gets bail

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    London, (IANS) Indian-origin Oxford mathematician Devinder Sivia, who was arrested after an eminent professor was found dead at his home, has been released on bail. The professor’s widow said her husband was not murdered while Sivia’s father described the academics’ relationship as that of “brothers”.

    The body of Steven Rawlings, a 50-year-old astrophysicist, was found at Sivia’s home in Oxfordshire Wednesday.

    Sivia, a 49-year-old Sikh mathematics lecturer at Oxford University, was arrested. He was released on bail Friday as police downgraded the investigation into Rawlings’ death, reported Daily Mail.

    Rawlings’ widow Linda said the death was not a murder.

    “Steve and Devinder were best friends since college and I believe this is a tragic accident.”

    “I do not believe that Steve’s death is murder and I do not believe Devinder should be tarnished in this way,” Linda was quoted as saying.

    British police are now looking at “underlying health issues” after a post-mortem examination of Rawlings failed to pinpoint the exact cause of his death.

    Daily Telegraph said Sivia spent over 24 hours in custody but was released after detectives said it was possible the death was not the result of any foul play.

    The Oxford professor had suffered a breakdown last year.

    A friend of Rawlings said he had spoken to the professor just hours before he died and that he seemed troubled and was considering resigning from his post at Oxford.

    “He (Rawlings) was thinking about the future and contemplating handing his notice in to St Peter’s College. He had a very intense job and he was a very intense person,” Daily Telegraph quoted the friend as saying.

    The friend added: “He had had a breakdown last year and on that occasion was found wandering around the village in his dressing gown in the middle of the night.”

    Sivia’s father, 80-year-old Gurbaksh, described his son and the professor as “very, very good friends, inseparable friends”.

    “They were like brothers. My son is a good son and a dedicated teacher. He has very simple habits – he never drinks, he never smokes. It’s unimaginable.”

    “They’ve been friends ever since they studied at Cambridge University together. I’ve known him for 20 years. When my son was ill, Steven would bring flowers and food to his house to help out,” the Daily Mail quoted Gurbaksh as saying.

    Sivia had a bright career and was working with NASA earlier but had been wooed back by Britain to work in the country.

    Sivia’s brother Gurdip said the British and Australian governments had wanted Sivia to work for them after NASA.

    “Eventually, the British government got him back and set him up in a laboratory at Oxford,” Daily Mail quoted Gurdip as saying.

    He said his brother had never been in a serious relationship since he was “married to his work”.

    Sivia’s family had moved from India’s Punjab state when the mathematician was five. He was educated in England and studied science at Cambridge before moving to the US to work for NASA at their space centre for three years.