‘Don’ arrested over St Peter’s Professor’s death

UPDATE 13:07 13th Jan – The man arrested has been released on police bail until 18th April 2012. For the update see story here.

Professor Steve Rawlings, a physics tutor at St Peter’s, was found dead at a house near Abingdon on Wednesday night.

A 49-year old man, reported to be an academic at St John’s College, has been arrested in connection with the death and remains in police custody after officers were called to Laurel Drive, Southmoor at 11.22pm.

Initially the death was reported as murder but the cause of death is unclear.

After paramedics arrived Professor Rawlings, 50, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Thames Valley Police released a statement: “A 49-year-old man who was arrested on suspicion of murder last night (11/1), remains in custody for questioning.”

“A post-mortem examination was carried out by a Home Office pathologist earlier today was unable to establish a cause of death at this time. Further examinations will be undertaken.”

Students and colleagues have paid tribute to Rawlings and expressed their shock at the incident.

Mark Damazer, Master of St Peter’s College said: “He was a much liked and admired tutor and colleague within the College and will be greatly missed. We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife Linda.”

Vice-Chancellor of the University, 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.”

A third-year St Peter’s physics student told the Oxford Student: “He was a very good tutor. He never accepted that I was too stupid to do something. It’s completely out of the blue.”

“He was really, really lovely, really nice and sweet,” added a former St Peter’s physicist. “He used to lecture and was really popular on the lecture course, showing his good sense of humour with lots of jokes. He had a wife but apart from that I know nothing much about him outside the course.”

Det Supt Rob Mason, from the Major Crime Unit, said: “The investigation is still in the early stages and we are endeavouring to establish what has happened in the house and we are keeping an open mind until all our enquires are concluded.

“On attendance at the address CPR was administered by a member of the public, police officers and paramedics, but unfortunately the man had passed away.

“A post-mortem examination to establish the cause of death is due to take place this evening. Until the result of this examination is known and further enquiries have been completed, I am unable to provide more information or speculate as to the circumstances surrounding his death.

“It does appear that no one else was present at the address and we are not currently looking for anyone else in connection with this incident.”

“We are liaising closely with Oxford University and it is apparent that he was well respected and liked within the college and colleagues and students have been devastated by the news,” Mason added.

Police have not named the man arrested on suspicion of murder.

According to the Press Association, Telegraph and Daily Mail, a University source confirmed that the man arrested on suspicion of murder was Dr Sivia, a Stipendiary Lecturer in Mathematics for the Sciences and member of St John’s College. Rawlings and Sivia are reported to have been friends and have co-written books in the past. The house where Rawlings’ body was found is reported to be Sivia’s.

St John’s President Michael Scholar wrote an email sent to all members of St John’s yesterday afternoon: “Following an incident which took place near Oxford yesterday evening there may be media interest today and in the coming days in a member of College.

“I ask you all, in order to prevent any possible prejudice to a police investigation which is taking place, to refer to me any questions which may be put to you by the media, and to avoid making comments on social media or elsewhere.”