Widow defends suspect in Oxford death

Wife does not believe professor husband was murdered as his best friend is released by police

The widow of a leading Oxford academic, who died in mysterious circumstances, spoke last night in defence of the friend arrested after the death, insisting the whole matter must be a tragic accident.

Professor Steven Rawlings, 50, a "much-admired" tutor, was visiting his friend and fellow lecturer Dr Devinder Sivia on Wednesday night when paramedics were called shortly before 11.30pm. He was declared dead at the scene as Dr Sivia, 49, was arrested and led away in handcuffs.

Yesterday, both staff and students at the university said they were devastated by the loss as both families insisted it must have been a case of a terrible accident as the two men had been "inseparable friends" since their university days three decades ago.

Last night Prof Rawlings' wife Linda said: "Steve was a well-loved, caring, intelligent, sensitive man. Steve and Devinder were best friends since college and I believe this is a tragic accident.

"Steve is a man of integrity, kindness and a very accessible person. Steve was the love of my life and we have known each other all of these years and he has never changed, even though he has achieved so much and has all these qualities. I will miss him more than anything else in the world.

"I do not believe that Steve's death is murder and I do not believe Devinder should be tarnished in this way."

As Dr Sivia, a maths lecturer, was released on bail until 18 April, Detective Superintendent Rob Mason said: "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."

Despite initial reports that Dr Rawlings died of a heart attack, a Thames Valley Police spokesman said that a post mortem had proved "totally inconclusive" and that further tests were being carried out.

Yesterday Professor Rawlings's wife was being cared for by family liaison officers at the couple's thatched cottage near Wantage, Oxfordshire. In nearby Southmoor, Abingdon, officers continued to search Dr Sivia's bungalow, emerging with box loads of files.

Yesterday Dr Sivia's father said the two men – colleagues in the astrophysics department of Oxford University and and co-authors of a mathematics book – were "like brothers". Retired maths teacher Gurbakhsh Sivia, 80, said: "It is a shock, it is a tragedy. It is hard to believe and hard to understand what happened."

Explaining that his son had told him he hoped the matter would be sorted out, he continued: "He is shocked himself. He was his best friend. He said nothing of a fight or a falling out. I can't believe they would have fallen out.

"They have been friends since they were students at Cambridge University. I think for more than 20 years."

The two men – who published the book Foundations of Science Mathematics together in 1999 – had both taught at the university for many years.

The former BBC Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer, now Master at St Peter's College where Prof Rawlings worked, said he was a highly respected academic. Dr Sivia was based at St John's College.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone