Widow Defends Don Held over Oxford Death

12 January 2012, 06:00 | Updated: 14 January 2012, 08:19

The widow of an Oxford University professor found dead at the home of a fellow academic said she believed his death was a "tragic accident''.

Devinder Sivia, 49, was arrested on suspicion of murder on Wednesday night at his home in Southmoor, Oxfordshire, after police discovered the body of Professor Steven Rawlings (pictured), 50, there.

After Oxford University don Dr Sivia was released on police bail yesterday, Prof Rawlings's widow, Linda Rawlings, rallied to support him.

In a statement issued through Thames Valley Police, Mrs Rawlings said: "I do not believe that Steve's death is murder and I do not believe Devinder should be tarnished in this way.''

Describing her husband as a "well-loved, caring, intelligent, sensitive man,'' she added: "Steve and Devinder were best friends since college and I believe this is a tragic accident.''

Further tests are expected to be carried out on Prof Rawling's body after police said a post-mortem examination conducted yesterday proved inconclusive.

Detective Superintendent Rob Mason, from Thames Valley Police's major crime unit, said the academic's death "may be a matter for a coroner's inquest rather than a criminal court'' and that investigators were keeping an open mind about the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

He said: "This is a tragic incident and our investigations are ongoing to establish the cause of death.

"A substantial amount of information is already in the public domain and we can confirm that the two individuals involved have been friends for over 30 years.

"I would emphasise that the police are investigating all potential circumstances that could have led to his death.

"We are mindful that ultimately the death may be a matter for a coroner's inquest rather than a criminal court and I would ask for patience from both the media and the public while we continue our investigation.''

Dr Sivia was released on bail until April 18 yesterday after being questioned by detectives at Abingdon police station.

Southmoor Death - house

Emergency crews were called to a home at 11.22pm on Wednesday to reports that a man had been injured. Paramedics attended but Prof Rawlings was declared dead at the scene.

Mr Mason said detectives were liaising closely with Oxford University, where Prof Rawlings was said to be a well-respected and liked academic.

Tributes have been paid to the St Peter's College academic in the wake of his death, with vice-chancellor of Oxford University Professor Andrew Hamilton saying the entire university community had been "profoundly saddened and shocked'' by his "tragic and untimely death''.