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.

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Arts and Entertainment
Ella Henderson's first studio album has gone straight to the top of the charts
music
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

Life and Style
fashion
News
Paul Nuttall, left, is seen as one of Ukip's key weapons in selling the party to the North of England
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand labelled 'left-wing commie scum' by Fox News
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
Arts and Entertainment
artKaren Wright tours the fair and wishes she had £11m to spare
News
i100
Life and Style
Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh been invited to take part in Women Fashion Power, a new exhibition that celebrates the way women's fashion has changed in relation to their growing power and equality over the past 150 years
fashionKirsty and Camila swap secrets about how to dress for success
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
booksNew book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past