Oxford professor found dead at the home of 'best friend' and lecturer


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The Independent Online

An Oxford don who played a leading role in the creation of the world's largest radio telescope has been found dead in what police are treating as murder.

Professor Steven Rawlings, 50, was found in a colleague's bungalow in the village of Southmoor, Oxfordshire, on Wednesday night, after police were called to reports that a man was injured.

A member of the public, paramedics and police attempted to resuscitate him, but he was too badly hurt. He had been at the home of Dr Devinder Sivia, a mathematician with whom he had collaborated professionally and had known for 15 years. According to one report they were "the best of friends".

The cause of death remained a mystery last night after a post-mortem proved inconclusive, but it is thought Professor Rawlings had been battered and may have suffered a heart attack.

A 49-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder.

Staff and students at the University of Oxford, where the victim was a professor of astrophysics, were said to be stunned at his death. Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, said: "The entire university community has been profoundly saddened and shocked by the tragic and untimely death of Professor Steve Rawlings. Our thoughts are with his family and friends."

Former BBC Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer, master at St Peter's College, said Professor Rawlings was a "much liked and admired tutor" who "will be greatly missed".

On his Facebook page, Professor Rawlings listed Inspector Morse, the detective series set in Oxford and starring John Thaw, as being among his favourite television programmes.

Professor Rawlings, who leaves a wife, Linda, had been a fellow at St Peter's College since 1994.

He was deeply involved with the Square Kilometre Array, a project costing more than £1bn to set up the world's biggest radio telescope. It will be spread over a vast area, most likely in Australia or South Africa.